‘Hallowellness’ Offers Free Coronavirus Tests for LGTBQ+ Community in Downtown SJ

There have been several pop-up Covid-19 testing sites throughout Santa Clara County, but none yet in downtown San Jose.

That all changes today with hALLoWELLness, a Halloween-themed health fair for the LGBTQ+community, their families and allies.

Project MORE is hosting the first-time event, which goes from 11am to 5:30pm today at 27 S. 1st St. Members of the LGBTQ+ community will have access to free Covid-19 testing, flu shots/other vaccinations and a wellness toolkit.

It’s no secret that certain segments of the population have been hit disproportionately hard from Covid-19, including LGBTQ+ people, who often don’t seek medical care due to discrimination or a fear of discrimination. hALLoWELLness provides a refuge for a community that often faces heavy discrimination.

“This is very much a safe and positive space for the LGBTQ+ community,” Nathan Svoboda, President/COO of Project MORE, said in an interview with San Jose Inside. “For those who might not otherwise feel comfortable going to a medical provider, either because they’ve had issues they’ve experienced or simply out of fear, this is really a first of a kind thing around here certainly.”

Daniel Moretti, the program manager of the County of Santa Clara Office of LGBTQ Affairs, agreed.

“The event was intentionally designed to be affirming for LGBTQ+ people,” he told San Jose Inside.

The inaugural hALLoWELLness provides a safe haven for a LGBTQ+ community that faces unique challenges from the coronavirus pandemic. Recent studies show that 17 percent of LGBTQ people lack health coverage; 1 in 5 live in poverty; and 40 percent of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ.

LGBTQ people are more likely to work in jobs in highly affected industries, putting them at greater risk to contract the virus. In the past, Project MORE hosted an annual wellness festival, Jubilee, for the LGBTQ+ community in late September. However, the event had to be scrapped this year due to the pandemic.

“But it quickly became very clear to us that we needed to figure out a way to have something in place of that because wellness is certainly needed during this difficult time,” Svoboda said. “How could we leverage what we did in the past to our circumstances now? Ultimately, this is what we created.”

Project MORE partnered and collaborated with over 20 organizations, including the aforementioned County Office of LGBTQ+ Affairs, the County Public Health Department and Safeway. The Knight Foundation and Avenidas provided funding to make haALLoWELLness possible.

In addition to free Covid-19 testing and flu shots, the LGBTQ+ community will receive wellness kits that include hand sanitizers, reusable masks, fidget spinners, rainbow toothbrushes, stress-relief toys and coloring and cooking books.

“The kit is full of all kinds of fun things to help people through difficult and isolating times,” Svoboda said. “This is a really significant event in how affirming and spirited it is for LGBTQ+ people.”

Svoboda said all of the staff members working the event will have “some type of LGBTQ competency training.” Those wishing to participate in hALLoWELLness can register for an appointment—the preferred method—at HalloWellness.org. Walk-ups are welcome and will be on a first come, first serve basis while supplies last.

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