2019 Community Partnership Award Winners
MERIT FINALIST AWARD RECIPIENT
Seeing the Future: Vision Health Initiative
Many people take visual acuity for granted. But imagine if everything you saw was out of focus. For children and adults coping with homelessness, poor eyesight can complicate their already difficult circumstances and create barriers to their ability to succeed in school, find and retain a job and emerge from poverty.
Since 1985, Care For the Homeless (CFH) has delivered client-centered healthcare, social services and shelter to individuals and families experiencing homelessness in New York City. Their community-based approach is designed to improve the health and well-being of homeless adults and children at 18 sites in neighborhoods where the need is most significant. After research showed that individuals experiencing homelessness have more vision-related problems than the general public, CFH launched the Seeing the Future: Vision Health Initiative in 2016 to provide vision screenings in the same location where patients who are homeless receive their healthcare services.
Today, the program offers vision health education, vision screenings and direct referrals for follow-up treatment to address conditions such as refractive errors, glaucoma, macular degeneration, cataracts and diabetic retinopathy. CFH created the program with a diverse group of partners: Tuckahoe-Eastchester Lions Club provides trained volunteers to assist CFH at screening events; SUNY College of Optometry schedules follow-up appointments with SUNY eye specialists; and The Hyde and Watson Foundation provides critical funding for CFH to purchase advanced screening equipment.
“It is hard enough to turn your life around when you are homeless, but it can be next to impossible when you cannot see. The Vision Health Initiative provides essential vision-screening services that can help reduce the educational, employment and health challenges that individuals and families experiencing homelessness face,” said George Nashak, Executive Director of Care For the Homeless. “In 2018, we screened 338 adults and children; this year, we are on track to screen 400 to 500. By offering vision services at an accessible place, where our patients feel safe, welcome and comfortable, this program removes a significant barrier to their well-being and is helping them to envision a brighter future.”