Shifting the focus on what matters most: Optometrist services for homeless Utahns2018-10-10T22:17:48+00:00

Project Description

Judy decided she needed to get out. Living in her truck, she determined, was better than living in an abusive relationship. And that is where Judy lives today.

“I had just gotten new, expensive glasses, and my abuser destroyed them when I told him I was leaving,” Judy says, pausing briefly before continuing. “After my abuser destroyed my glasses, I didn’t have another prescription for two years. My astigmatism also made it difficult to get around.”

Eye Health and the Homeless Population

Poor eyesight and eye health impact many different individuals, and for many people an optometrist is easily accessible and affordable. But for homeless individuals, finding transportation to an optometrist or ophthalmologist visit—let alone paying for services or prescription lenses—is not so simple. Some studies have shown that as many as 30% of homeless individuals report having trouble with their vision.

Shad, like Judy, found his poor eyesight to be a barrier to his wellbeing. In fact, he cites it as one of the main reasons he became homeless. “I’m an electrician by trade,” Shad says warmly. “But when my eyes started going bad I couldn’t see to do my job, so…” Shad’s thousand-yard stare said it all: Not being able to work put him on the street.

An Optometrist at Fourth Street Clinic?

Fourth Street runs an optometry clinic in addition to their many other specialty health services. Staffed with an optometrist and optometry students from the University of Utah, the clinic is open the first three Tuesdays of every month. Ophthalmologists also provide services such as basic eye care, and give referrals for more intensive procedures. This is exactly what happened to Shad.

“My cataracts were discovered here at the clinic, and I got a referral,” Shad says. He explains that he has cataracts in both eyes, but had one of them fixed by surgery recently. A second surgery for the other eye is scheduled for next week. Shad also wears glasses from the optometry clinic and reports that, as his eyes change with the surgeries, he could come back for changes in his lenses.

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“I don’t know what I would do.”

Like Judy, Rod had his glasses broken by a relative. When his parents passed away and his family disagreed about how to divide their property, Rod ended up without his home and, in the process, without his glasses. And like Shad, Rod is unable to work.

“I haven’t had any jobs recently,” Rod states, explaining his health is too poor. Being unemployed makes it challenging for Rod to pay for health services, like an optometrist, and so he comes to Fourth Street Clinic.

“I don’t know where I’d go [without Fourth Street],” Rod declares. “They’ve been a godsend to me.”

Judy, now free from her abuser, agrees. “I don’t know what I would do without Fourth Street Clinic. I got a new pair of glasses and now can focus on improving other aspects of my life.” The return of good eyesight has helped Judy begin other healthy habits; she now attends weekly wellness classes and is looking for work.

Help Fourth Street Clinic

Judy, Shad, and Rod are just three individuals using the optometry services at Fourth Street Clinic. Last year, Fourth Street Clinic had almost 500 visits at our optometry clinic.

Click here to find out what you can do to help keep these services available to our homeless neighbors.

“You have a good day,” Rod says firmly. “You do a good job.”