Easier Access to Photo IDs Means Less Homelessness

Most of us take for granted that, when asked for ID, we can simply show our driver’s license or state-issued card and gain access to whatever establishment or service we need. For the homeless, however, this is a much different situation. Many homeless individuals lost their IDs long ago, or have expired cards that they have no way of replacing.

Why It’s So Difficult to Get an ID Card for the Homeless

In most situations, it’s extremely difficult for a homeless individual to get an ID card because it requires multiple proofs of identity that many do not have. Utility bills, birth certificates, social security cards, or proof of residence are usually required and homeless individuals do not possess them. Some states will accept a proof of homelessness from a social services agency, but these can also be difficult to obtain for some homeless people. In addition to difficult to obtain documents, a state-issued ID card can often cost as much as $50, money that most homeless individuals do not have

What a Lack of ID Card Means for the Homeless

Without an ID card, homeless individuals are denied entry to county, federal, and state buildings where much-needed services are located. In addition, it can be extremely difficult to get a job, find a place to live, receive benefits from the state, or even stay in a homeless shelter without an ID card. Many states also require a valid ID to vote.

The National Law on Homelessness and Poverty found that 51% of homeless individuals without ID were denied Supplemental Security Income benefits, 54% were unable to enter shelters, 45% were denied medical services, and 53% were denied food stamps.

What’s Being Done About It

State officials are beginning to recognize the problems that lack of ID for the homeless poses and are doing something about it. Several states including California now waive fees for the homeless to obtain IDs. Other states are waiving fees to replace birth certificates as a way to help the homeless obtain IDs. A San Francisco event for the homeless is also held quarterly where all the right resources are on site so that participants can easily obtain a new ID.

How You Can Help

It may seem like there is not much an individual can do to help the homeless obtain much-needed IDs. However, something as simple as a small donation to a homeless shelter or a program that serves the homeless can make a big difference. These organizations are constantly advocating for the homeless and will use the funds to provide better access to ID services for those who need them.

Without valid ID, homeless individuals have difficult accessing services, getting a job, finding housing, and even entering a shelter. If you’d like to find out how to help the homeless and end this cycle, please visit our website.