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‘Make Miracle Mile known’: Groups disperse COVID, public health info to Mass. and Cass through pop-up vaccination clinic

The Boston Globe logo The Boston Globe 8/3/2021 Tiana Woodard
a person talking on a cell phone: Mayoral candidate John Barros spoke with with Bethann Codrington, of Finding Hope in God. Barros collaborated with her organization and MetroWest Pharmacy of Framingham on Tuesday to host a COVID-19 vaccine clinic on Massachusetts Avenue near Melnea Cass Boulevard. She wrote the book “Redemption: From the Crack House to God’s House.” © Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff Mayoral candidate John Barros spoke with with Bethann Codrington, of Finding Hope in God. Barros collaborated with her organization and MetroWest Pharmacy of Framingham on Tuesday to host a COVID-19 vaccine clinic on Massachusetts Avenue near Melnea Cass Boulevard. She wrote the book “Redemption: From the Crack House to God’s House.”

For years, Bethann Codrington, 64, has hit the streets to give homeless people basic needs and blessings. But on Tuesday morning, she spread a different gospel.

“Free COVID shots for everybody!” she shouted in a parking lot beside a McDonald’s and Mobil gas station along Massachusetts Avenue. “Don’t be ignorant, get your COVID shot!”

Codrington and a small team of medical workers and church volunteers exhorted passersby from a pop-up COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the intersection of Mass. Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard, known as Mass. and Cass. As the core of Boston’s homelessness and drug crisis, the area has become a hot button issue for residents and the five mayoral candidates.

Codrington, who battled drug addiction for decades, said she felt obliged to help.

“I was one of them for 30 years,” said Codrington, the clinic’s organizer and founder of Finding Hope in God, a ministry. “When you turn your back to them, you’re turning your back on me.”

The event was co-hosted by Framingham’s Metrowest Pharmacy and John Barros, a mayoral candidate and the city’s former chief of economic development.

Each mayoral candidate has presented plans to curb homelessness and opioid use. Barros has pledged to create an advisory position for mental health and substance use, hire more city workers to help people on the streets, and decentralize the city’s efforts to combat homelessness from Mass. and Cass to other areas.

“As we talk to different people down here, they need different things,” Barros said. “We need to be able to equip all of our workers with information on what they know and resources for what they mean.”

Dressed in a dark gray polo shirt, jeans, and black sneakers, Barros tried to counter misconceptions about the vaccine, such as its side effects. He said his support for the clinic was personal. Pointing down Mass. Avenue, he said he grew up just two blocks from the clinic and now lives five blocks away.

“I’m not spending time on these streets because these are voters,” Barros said. “I’m spending time on these streets because this is what politicians need to be doing.”

With multicolor Skechers, jeans, and a white tank top with a neon pink silhouette of a girl with an Afro, Codrington wore a path around the gas station. She handed out McDonald’s gift cards from a pink backpack, dispersed water bottles, and shared information about the vaccine to anyone who would listen.

Some said they had been vaccinated. Some said they had only gotten one dose. Some approached the clinic but left, intimidated by the questions asked at the signup table.

But some were convinced and ducked into a tent for a shot. Afterward, volunteers handed them black, drawstring backpacks with a mask, water, and a blue “I’ve been vaccinated” memento. When they administered the first dose of the day, Codrington and the volunteers cheered the participant on.

The team came with 300 Johnson & Johnson vaccines, but used only 20. But Codrington remained hopeful. “We’ll be back,” she said.

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