Families & Community
6:22 pm
Mon June 9, 2014

Getting a state ID for the homeless? It's complicated

Credit SamPac / creative commons

Advocates for the homeless say getting a state identification card is much too complicated. There are many people who are homeless and are in need. They want to get their lives together, but need legal ID. Without it, they can't get a job, medical help, or housing.

But there can be many obstacles to overcome in order to get a state ID: You need a birth certificate, Social Security card, high school transcripts, a lease, or other documents that most homeless people just don’t have.

Elizabeth Kelly, executive director of Hope Hospitality and Warming Center in Pontiac, and Greg Markus, the founding organizer of the Detroit Action and Commonwealth, discussed the issue on Stateside.

Kelly says one of the issues homeless people face is that some documents, such as Bridge cards – a state-issued benefits card – or IDs issued by homeless shelters,  aren't accepted by the Michigan Secretary of State as proof of identification.

Greg Markus said the state needs to be more sensitive to the problems of the homeless.

Markus says the Secretary of State will now, after a long battle and lawsuit, accept proof of income during the application process, but he adds this will still exclude those who have no income. 

Kelly said the hurdles are keeping many homeless permanently, and forces some to panhandle or other pursuits in order to provide for themselves.

“How we handle and take care of those in need defines us,” Kelly said. “As a society, this is something that cannot be tolerated.”

*Listen to full interview above.

– Bre’Anna Tinsley, Michigan Radio Newsroom.