The eye care needs of the homeless population in the United States are not well known. This study elucidates those needs for health care for the homeless programs and eye care practitioners. This information could result in an increase in the provision of necessary eye care services.
The purpose of this study was to assess the extent of visual and ocular conditions, the frequency of eyeglass orders and receipt of eyeglasses, and the frequency of ophthalmology referrals and receipt of ophthalmological care in an adult homeless population in Boston.
A cross-sectional retrospective chart review was conducted for patients of the Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program’s Pine Street Inn eye clinic from September 26, 2016, to December 31, 2017. Data on sociodemographics, medical history, comprehensive eye examination findings, glasses orders and receipt, and ophthalmology referrals and receipt of care were collected and analyzed.
A total of 424 patients were included in the study. The mean age of the study population was 52.7 (interquartile range, 46 to 60), and the majority were male (74%). The most common systemic conditions were hypertension (40.6%) and diabetes (23.8%). The most common refractive error was presbyopia (67.7%), followed by astigmatism (38.9%), hyperopia (34.0%), and myopia (30.7%). The most common ocular conditions were dry eye (28.6%), visually or clinically significant cataract (20%), and glaucoma/glaucoma suspicion (13.9%). Refractive correction was indicated for 356 patients (84%), but 82 (29%) did not receive ordered eyeglasses. Ophthalmology referrals were placed for 61 patients (14.4%), yet only 20 (32.8%) of those referrals were completed.
A significant need for refractive correction and a large gap for ophthalmological care were found among the study population. Health care for the homeless programs and eye care practitioners should be aware of the visual and ocular needs of this patient population so as to better meet their needs.

Copyright © 2021 American Academy of Optometry.