We may not think much about our ID unless we’re rushing to the airport or heading out to a bar. Being without ID, however, can shut a person out of far more than a vacation or an over-21 show.
Photo ID is the key necessary to unlock the doors to many resources we take for granted: applying for a job, opening a bank account, obtaining food stamps, health insurance, going to a doctor’s appointment, picking up medications—even accessing a free computer at the public library—all of these things are out of reach without an ID. Meanwhile, right-wing legislators have demonstrated their willingness to tie voting rights to photo ID, threatening yet another version of political disenfranchisement in low-incomecommunities.
Despite the ubiquitous need for ID, most people living in deep poverty—and experiencing homelessness—cannot afford the roughly $30 cost of a Pennsylvania ID. This cost can nearly double for
those who are missing additional verification documents like a birth certificate or social security card. What’s more, many individuals feel trapped in a Catch-22 where “you need to have ID to get ID,” unable
to enter the social security office without photo ID but needing a social security card in order to applyfor photo ID!
The ID Services program was hatched in early 2016 through frontline social (justice) workers at Broad Street Ministry, a non-profit community center addressing the impacts of poverty in Philadelphia. In its first year, the program was able to assist more than 750 individuals in obtaining a photo ID or birth certificate, and is on track to do even more in 2017 as funds allow. In addition to covering the cost of ID documents, staff and volunteers running the program support individuals living with behavioral health challenges and the disorganized nature of the streets and shelter system, so that photo ID can become the first step towards a more stable life.
Learn more about the ID Services program and other efforts benefiting our neighbors experiencing poverty at Broadstreetministry.org