For our regular weekly clinics in London, Birmingham, Brighton, Manchester, Exeter and Leeds we urgently seek:

• Optometrists
• Dispensing Opticians
• Optical assistants
• Receptionists

BCLA president Shelly Bansal talks about the first time he heard about Vision Care for Homeless People and his experience in volunteering his time and helping out. Click here to hear all.

A regular volunteer at Vision Care for Homeless People clinic talks about her experience. Click here to find out more about Maggie’s story and how your valuable time could help vulnerable people.

Harinder Paul, Founder and Managing Director of Vision Care for Homeless People, appeals for volunteers to staff the expanding clinics for a desperately needed service Click here to find out more.

There are plenty of opportunities for volunteering for people with or without optical experience. Each clinic is staffed by an Optometrist and at least one Dispensing Optician or Optical Assistant. General volunteers are also required to help with administration outside of the clinical sessions.

In stark comparison to the commercialisation of high street practice, this is such a genuine opportunity to give a gift that really makes a difference to someone’s life. Selfishly, the reward I get from this is better than any present anybody could give me. I have met some very interesting people and it has also made me realise how lucky I am to have my home and family.

Homeless people are more vulnerable than the general population. They have a higher risk of being assaulted or having property stolen, so spectacles might be lost or broken beyond repair. They may not know that when receiving financial benefits that they are eligible for an NHS eye examination and a voucher towards spectacles. Even if they do know this very few practices will make spectacles totally free of charge and even a small charge may be unmanageable. They may not feel comfortable going into high-street opticians, as they may not have an address to give.

In 2003 a group of optometrists set about organising an optical service to run at the Crisis Skylight centre in East London. “Vision Care for Homeless People” was born. It was set-up to provide eyecare services for homeless people in an environment in which they feel welcome and comfortable. In February 2007 we were awarded charity status and this enabled us to open up in a second centre in Westminster. This was followed in 2008 by the opening of our Birmingham clinic, Broadway centre in Shepherds Bush in 2011, Brighton clinic in 2013 and then Manchester in 2014.

A full eye examination is carried out and if required we can make appropriate spectacles. Spectacles take 1 – 2 weeks to make. We have some ready made reading spectacles that can be dispensed at the time if they are suitable. The “Vision Care for Homeless People” team currently carries out about 400 eye examinations a year and we aim to increase this. Our long-term aim is to expand and have centres nationwide. We have other centres under discussion in London, Newcastle and Oxford.

The equipment we have is better than some practices I have worked in over the years. As well as the usual trial lenses and testing chart, each practice has a slit-lamp, non-contact tonometer and visual field screener.

I have found the experience very rewarding but also frustrating that I couldn’t do more, as there are more people than can be seen. This year we would like to increase the number of people we can see, so if you could spare some time, it would be greatly appreciated. Just being there for people helps them to re-build their self-respect, to feel that they are worth it, and that there are people who care about them.

Volunteer now: email info@vchp.org.uk for more information and a volunteer application form.

Crisis Christmas volunteering:
In October we will be recruiting for the Crisis at Christmas clinics which run every day from 23rd December until 29th December (including all bank holidays). The locations across London will to be confirmed near the time. It is an amazing experience to volunteer for the Crisis Christmas and be part of such a fantastic organisation that helps so many people. Last year 279 homeless people had their eye examinations by the team of 86 volunteers. Click here to hear all about it.