Hopelink, a nonprofit organization that helps individuals and families find stability in crisis by meeting basic needs for food, shelter, heat, and transportation, has launched a Coordinated Vaccine Transportation Helpline (425-943-6706) as a “one-stop shop” for finding and securing transportation to and from vaccination sites in and around King County.
For many communities across King County, transportation is a constant barrier to getting to their doctor’s appointments, grocery stores, and social gatherings. This barrier was made even more complex by the COVID-19 pandemic. Individuals—especially older adults, people with disabilities, people with limited English, and members of the BIPOC community—have faced some of the most significant barriers.
As the COVID-19 vaccine began to roll out in January, it was clear that transportation continued to be an obstacle. Many of the populations most in need of the vaccine were unable to get to their vaccine appointment safely and reliably.
This need prompted Hopelink to think creatively on how to be part of the solution. In addition to launching the King County COVID Vaccine Mobility Task Force, Hopelink created the Coordinated Vaccine Transportation Helpline. This Helpline is a one-stop-shop for finding and securing transportation support to and from vaccine appointments in and around King County. Individuals, caregivers, caseworkers, medical professionals, vaccine schedulers and others can receive individualized support for themselves or the rider they are helping through either an online intake form or by calling 425-943-6706 (press 5 for language assistance). There are no eligibility criteria, and the ride is free in most circumstances.
This program aims to support communities that are the most vulnerable and need access to the vaccine sites, including BIPOC communities, seniors, immigrants, refugees, and individuals with disabilities. We want to ensure transportation is not the barrier to accessing the vaccine in our community.
The Helpline was launched in late February and is staffed by Hopelink team members who are bilingual in English and Spanish, and staff also have access to interpretation services at the time of the call. The Helpline reservation line is open Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. You can also leave a voicemail and get a callback.
The success of this Helpline is because of the incredible partnerships that were created. This includes Aging and Disability Services, Sound Generations (Hyde Shuttle & Volunteer Driver Program), Catholic Community Services of Western Washington (King County Volunteer Services), King County Metro (Access, Community Van, Crossroads Connect, Via to Transit), Snoqualmie Valley Transportation, Northshore Senior Center, Puget Sound Educational Service District, Hopelink’s Non-Emergency Medical Transportation, Lyft, and Uber. These partners have stepped up to promote, fund and/or provide transportation to vaccine appointments and provided them at no cost.
The success of this program is highlighted by an older Hispanic couple who called for a next-day trip. English was not their primary language, and they were nervous about riding public transit. They were afraid they would get lost, and they also feared being harassed for being immigrants. Traveling from Kirkland to Seattle with such short notice, options were limited; however, this ride was able to be fulfilled in partnership with King County Metro’s Community Van. In addition, they were able to ride again to receive their second shot.
No one should second-guess how they will get to their vaccine appointment. We want to put their mind at ease by giving them one less thing to worry about.
Hopelink is proud to partner with Public Health—Seattle & King County and many other organizations across King County to provide transportation for this critical resource. The Helpline will continue to support the community if there is a need, thanks to generous grant partners, including Washington State Department of Transportation, Aging and Disability Services/Community Living Connections, and All in WA’s Vaccine Equity Initiative.
For additional transportation resources, visit the Find A Ride COVID-19 Transportation Resources webpage or call 425-943-6706. A flyer about the Vaccine Transportation Helpline is available in English, Arabic, Chinese, Farsi, Khmer, Korean, Luganda, Portuguese, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Swahili, Tagalog, Wolof, and Vietnamese. For information on the COVID vaccine in King County, visit www.kingcounty.gov/vaccine.
In addition to supporting basic needs, Hopelink supports people working hard to build a path out of poverty through adult education, financial capabilities classes, help finding a job and family development support through comprehensive case management. Our organization also provides services through a trauma-informed lens, recognizing that the violence of poverty leaves scars, both mental and physical, that have long-term effects on how people perceive the world and choices they make.
Contributors Staci Sahoo and Sara Sisco work in Mobility Management at Hopelink, a community-based nonprofit organization that served nearly 65,000 people in King and Snohomish counties in 2020.