Illinois ID’s for the Homeless, Free? Massachusetts, we can do this!

Illinois IDs for the Homeless:

Free, With Paperwork

by Natalie Wendt August 20, 2010 09:34 AM (PT)

It’s common and frustrating problem: practically everything requires identification, but getting an ID if you’re homeless and don’t have one is complicated, confusing, and in some situations nearly impossible.

A year ago we told you how Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed into a law an amendment waiving fees for homeless IDs. The amendment finally went into effect last month but homeless individuals can’t get the identification cards on their own. To qualify, an agency or shelter has to fill out and notarize a Homeless Status Certification before application for the ID cards can begin. And since the address of that agency or shelter is used as the official address, every change of shelters or addresses means applying for another card. This makes the process of, um, questionable value for people avoiding harsh winters, staying in shelters with 90-day limits, or frequently changing addresses for any reason.

On the plus side, the Illinois IDs are free, unlike in other states. They also allow you to skip the multiple proof of address requirement once you obtain the Homeless Status Certification and an agency or shelter vouches as your address. But the required documents (pdf) for getting identification cards offer the same problems faced by everyone with a lost or stolen ID since the Patriot Act began. For starters, you must have official proof of your date of birth and your Social Security number. And if you don’t, well, no new identification card.

Waiving the fee is great. Offering an alternative way of dealing with addresses is even better. But without a plan for folks struggling to get a copy of their birth certificate or any of the other required paperwork, people without current, accepted identification aren’t better off.

OK, what do you do if you don’t have the necessary documents to get that new ID? Any suggestions for Illinois as it tries to address the barriers to identification?

Photo credit: nerdcoregirl

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