We run opticians clinics for homeless people in London, Brighton, Birmingham, Manchester, Exeter and Leeds. The clinics are located within homeless person’s day centres and each local branch is operated by a team of volunteers. We have recently launched a mobile service in London, too.
Homeless people are particularly disadvantaged when it comes to obtaining sight tests, glasses and eye care. They suffer a higher level of eye problems than the general population and a third of homeless people have never had their eyes tested. We provide glasses free of charge to 1,800 homeless people each year. Of those, only a third are eligible for NHS funding, so we make up the difference by using volunteers, through gifts in kind and by fundraising.
We also organize the Opticians Service at Crisis at Christmas in London. During the week, over 80 volunteers go around in mobile teams to conduct eye tests and provide glasses.
Homeless people need glasses in order to find accommodation, obtain or retain employment, to help them stay safe and to enjoy everyday activities. Being able to see properly is often important to them picking themselves up again when they are or have been homeless.
“In our Shepherd’s Bush clinic, I talked to a gentleman who had come to collect his glasses. His poor eyesight was making it difficult to get a job. He'd been trying, but when he was given something to read at an interview he couldn't see it properly and got flustered. He'd also stopped using the internet to look for work because it hurt his eyes. He was delighted to receive his new glasses and eagerly went off to his next appointment at the Job Centre. We heard from him again in June. He had got himself a job and is currently working full time as a kitchen porter in Chiswick.”
We are proud of what we do but are keen to do more because our research suggests that nearly 20,000 homeless people are in need of eye tests and glasses each year. Over the next few years we plan to be reaching 40% of homeless people in England.