For Sung-ha Jou, a 44-year-old Air Force veteran, 1 catastrophe kept starring to the adjacent during the coronavirus pandemic. He mislaid his occupation during the aboriginal weeks of the pandemic, past yet his home, his van and his different sources of support. By the clip coronavirus vaccines became widespread, Mr Jou was arriving, destitute, astatine a D.C. stateless shelter.
Meanwhile, the District of Columbia was putting successful spot an inaugural that respective states and cities crossed the state person tried: lotteries with big-ticket prizes, including successful D.C. a escaped car and $10,000 (£7,000) market store acquisition cards, to induce reluctant residents to get their coronavirus vaccines.
On his archetypal time astatine the shelter, Mr Jou got a vaccine. And this week, helium learned to his large astonishment that helium had besides won the lottery.
His prize: a twelvemonth of escaped rides connected the D.C. Metro system.
He says it’s a boon that helium severely needed, and 1 that volition assistance him question to aesculapian appointments, societal services and different important outings arsenic helium gets backmost connected his feet portion pursuing employment and housing.
“This is virtually God-sent. I americium truthful grateful for this,” Mr Jou said. “It’s conscionable retired of nowhere. When I thought everything was going wrong, this truly helped maine out.”
Winning the lottery was, astatine agelong last, a tiny agleam constituent successful a year-plus of accumulating disasters for him. Five years aft helium retired from a 15-year vocation successful the Air Force, Mr Jou was moving arsenic a mechanic astatine a car dealership successful Centreville, Virginia erstwhile the pandemic struck. Business astatine the dealership slowed to a trickle during the archetypal weeks of societal distancing. Mr Jou was furloughed, past yet realised his occupation was ne'er coming back.
Serving successful the subject had been a precedence of his since helium emigrated from South Korea to California arsenic a teen and became a US citizen. But his work near him surviving connected the East Coast, acold from household and friends who mightiness person helped him out. He saved up wealth from his unemployment checks and utilized it to commencement up his ain business: He bought a van and established himself arsenic a mobile mechanic, driving astir Virginia to bash lipid changes and marque car repairs.
With the expenses of a fledgling business, helium was stretching to wage his rent; helium enactment a furniture successful the van and moved in.
“It was ok. I managed for a while. Until the car broke down and I didn’t person the wealth to hole it,” helium said. One stroke followed different - idiosyncratic broke into the van, stealing Mr Jou’s tools that helium utilized for his mobile mechanic business. His nutrient stamps expired and helium struggled to implicit the paperwork to commencement them again. He ran retired of wealth to bargain groceries and water.
“It was really, truly rough,” helium said. “That’s erstwhile I truly became alert of immoderate of my intelligence issues, the PTSD issues that I had either ignored oregon was excessively arrogant to admit to ... I spent a batch of clip successful my car by myself.”
Last month, his van was repossessed. He slept connected the thoroughfare for a fewer days, until helium passed retired connected a blistery day. An ambulance took him to a hospital, wherever helium explained his caller struggles to a pistillate moving astatine the beforehand desk. She and immoderate friends pooled the wealth to bid him an Uber to a D.C. stateless shelter.
While helium was surviving successful his van, Mr Jou had heard astir the coronavirus vaccine, but had decided it would beryllium excessively risky to get it: What if helium had a atrocious reaction, and cipher knew due to the fact that helium was unsocial successful his van without idiosyncratic taking attraction of him?
The time helium got to the 801 East Men’s Shelter, that changed. He would beryllium staying successful a country afloat of different stateless men, wherever helium feared helium could drawback the virus. “I instantly said, ‘I request a vaccine now. I’m with a radical of astatine slightest 100 people.’ “ The RISE Demonstration Center, which is located connected the aforesaid sprawling St Elizabeths field arsenic the shelter, was offering shots; helium walked implicit and got his that day.
Unbeknownst to Mr Jou, the RISE Demonstration Center is 1 of 3 vaccine clinics wherever the District has offered $51 (£37) acquisition cards since precocious June to each idiosyncratic who gets their archetypal changeable there. More than 70 per cent of D.C. residents aged capable for the shots person gotten a dose, but residents eastbound of the Anacostia River are the slightest apt to person been vaccinated. The prizes astatine the 3 east-of-the-river clinics are an effort by D.C. leaders to boost those rates.
Patients astatine those 3 sites tin besides participate lotteries to triumph prizes, including market and Metro acquisition cards.
City head Kevin Donahue said past week that 807 radical person gotten acquisition cards truthful acold - a comparatively tiny number, meaning the likelihood of winning the vaccine lottery are amended than astir prize drawings. Last week, the metropolis gave distant 1 car, 2 $10,000 (£7,000) market acquisition cards, and 8 one-year Metro passes.
Anyone who was vaccinated astatine the 3 sites from 19 June onward volition proceed to beryllium entered into drawings for the adjacent 3 weeks to triumph 3 much cars, six much market acquisition cards and different prizes.
City leaders person publically debated whether the vaccine lottery works to person radical to get a shot. Some person wondered whether high-dollar lotteries could backfire, starring radical already skeptical of the shots to wonderment whether the metropolis has ulterior motives successful offering currency giveaways. But Mr Donahue and others accidental that each approaches to getting reluctant radical protected from the microorganism are worthy trying.
“I had nary idea” that determination would beryllium a lottery astatine the vaccine clinic, Mr Jou said. “They said, ‘Would you similar to beryllium entered into this escaped prize raffle?’ I said, ‘Sure, wherefore not? I’d instrumentality thing escaped close now.’ I didn’t adjacent retrieve it. When they called maine (to archer maine I’d won), initially I thought it was immoderate benignant of scam.”
Mr Jou says that the time successful June that helium got his changeable was 1 of his bleakest days. “When I archetypal got to the shelter, I was precise dejected, and I was feeling precise hopeless. Everything I had is gone. And I conscionable had nary thought however to get backmost connected my ain 2 feet again,” helium said.
Now helium is much hopeful. After 2 weeks successful the shelter, helium moved with assistance from a veteran’s hotline into a transitional location successful Southeast Washington for veterans seeking imperishable housing, wherever helium has his ain country and nonrecreational help. He is moving with a intelligence wellness provider, who is besides helping him reapply for nutrient stamps.
All of those appointments - from aesculapian visits to trips to Veterans Affairs for assistance - utilized to mean agelong journeys connected foot. Most days, helium walked miles successful D.C.’s muggy summertime vigor from the structure successful Congress Heights crossed the high-traffic 11th Street Bridge into the parts of the metropolis westbound of the Anacostia wherever helium had his appointments.
Thanks to the vaccine lottery, helium tin present thrust Metro trains and buses free. “How did they cognize I needed this?” helium marvels.
Soon, helium said, helium hopes he’ll find a occupation successful D.C. He can’t hold to instrumentality the Metro to work.
The Washington Post