Let’s Get I.D., Philly!
September 8, 2016
We may not think much about our ID unless we’re rushing to the airport or heading out for a night on the town. Being without ID, however, can shut a person out of far more than a vacation or an evening out with friends.
Try applying for a job or opening a bank account and you’ll quickly realize how often photo ID is required. Basic needs, too, are often out of reach without ID, such as food stamps, public benefits, visiting the social security office, or making doctors’ appointments. Even accessing a free computer at a public library is off limits without ID.
When Kim first came to Broad Street Ministry, she had discovered this barrier the hard way after fleeing an unsafe living situation in New Jersey. Without ID showing a Pennsylvania address, she was unable to apply for food stamps, left wondering how she would be able to eat each day.
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 increase 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 apply for photo ID! This was a problem for Kim, who had had to leave her former home and partner quickly before collecting those important documents.
Despite these obstacles, Kim—and BSM—are celebrating a terrific win this month thanks to a special pilot program called ID Philly. As one of the handful of agencies selected by the city to participate, we have been able to help guests without the usual prerequisite documents, apply for a free replacement Pennsylvania photo ID that would be delivered directly to our central location at 315 South Broad. Even without setting foot in a Penndot or DMV location, hundreds of eligible guests (who are over 18 and have had a Pennsylvania ID since 1992) have obtained the ID card that opens doors to everything from banking and public benefits to community resources and independent housing.
On August 24, Kim became the 181st person to hold a new Pennsylvania ID in their hand through the ID Philly pilot program. When asked what she planned to do now that she had ID, she beamed a wide smile and referencing an old 1980s commercial, shouting, “I’m goin’ to Disneyworld!” Upon further reflection, she amended her answer to taking a trip to the Social Security office to apply for disability. Even without the mouse-ears, Kim and the rest of the Broad Street community consider this cause for celebration.