In the span of two weeks, the city of Lexington has initiated two separate identification card programs aimed at assisting homeless persons. Both are seen as ways to help move eligible participants into more permanent living arrangements. The most recent ID program focuses on removing transportation barriers.
Identification of some sort is something many of us certainly take for granted. It can come in the form of a driver’s license, work ID, or government issued ID. But, for the homeless, no identification can hinder efforts to find employment or permanent housing. 69 -year -old Michael Anderson came to the Hope Homeless Center in Lexington about six weeks ago. “I’ve never lost my identification in my lifetime or social security card or birth certificate, but I couldn’t imagine being without identification because of the hindrances and the roadblocks that could present to obtain, for example, housing or other government services,” said Anderson.
In fact, during his travels across the U.S. over the past four and a half years, Anderson says he’s observed some emergency centers with strict ID policies regarding those inquiring about shelter. “Once they approach the front desk and the desk clerk said I need to see identification, a photo ID. When the individual said, ‘I don’t have any ID, I’ve lost it,’ there have been a few homeless shelters that would not allow them to stay without identification.”
Hope Center Director of Programs David Shadd says that is not the policy at Lexington’s homeless shelter on Louden Avenue. Shadd says about 180 men are currently staying at the Hope Center. He says probably about half don’t have any ID’s. “I was talking with some of the guys about this process and some of the procedures to go about getting an ID and we several who had ID’s but they were expired or they were from other states. So, sometime even when we have identification, it’s expired, and they can’t afford to have it renewed,” said Shadd
That’s where the city funded ID program can help. With a social security card and birth certificate in hand, participants can now get a free state issued general ID card. That program was launched last week.
29 -year -old Daniel Lyons sought services at the Hope Center shelter. After completing the center’s recovery program, Lyons was hired to take part in street outreach services. He says employers want to see that ID. Without an ID, it’s pretty crippling to do anything really, cause you go to get a job and employers are asking for identification. You don’t have that then you can’t legally say who you are and who you are not,” explained Lyons.
David Shadd, with the Hope Center, agrees that an ID can help in securing a stable job. “We want them to get legitimate jobs that will last a long time and they can develop into careers versus just day labor type things. There’s a place for that, but in order to get those types of steady income sources, they do have to have identification.”
This week the city and its bus system, LexTran, joined together to offer conditional free bus service for a year to eligible homeless persons. They must be living in an emergency shelter or transitional housing and be seeking permanent housing. Polly Ruddick, director of the Office of Homelessness Prevention and Intervention, says the state issued ID card and the transportation identification card do go hand -in -hand. “You now have access to get that ID and you now have access to the transportation to go out and actually complete that paperwork, so they do run together. They’re two of our highest needs. They were two of our biggest gaps in this community as far as getting people back on their feet,” noted Ruddick.
Ruddick says the cost of the two programs for a year is about $16,000 dollars. She says a bus pass for a month is helpful, but a state issued ID coupled with a year of transportation should provide the time to offer a better chance at permanent housing and steady work.