I suppose, it being my blog and all, that I can take a break from my normal topics tonight to talk about something different that has been bothering me—why homeless people can’t get IDs.
I should start by saying that I have an ID, although a number of years back I went through quite an adventure to get one myself when i found myself caught between two states.
No, this now is about other people…people that I know who have gone through complete nonsense while pursuing an ID. See, when you are homeless, keeping care of your possessions is, at the very least, much more complicated than the average person. Because…well there are all sorts of reasons. Items get stolen, items get lost, sometimes you just don’t know what happened to your stuff but its gone. When its a wallet that contains both your ID and your SS card, you have to start all over. And guess what, you can’t get up and out of the woods or under the bridge without being able to replace these things, but alas, the State has requirements.
This is Michigan, its actually representative of quite a few States.
It starts with this; you can’t get a new SS card without an ID and you can’t get an ID without an SS card. Because no one would ever lose both in a wallet of course. Out of the two, you come to find out that the Secretary of State will provide ways for you to get an ID without the SS card but SS will not bend on needing an ID to get a new SS card. But finding something else with your SS number on it hopefully is relatively easy.
Not so easy are numbers 3 and 4. The easiest thing for a homeless person without ID you would think would be School Transcripts. Until of course you call the school, and then the principal and the District and the Board only to find out that you can’t get your school transcript without an ID. That’s sort of ironic.
Then there’s proof of residency. Surprisingly, tents in the woods do not have addresses. You can’t receive mail in the woods. You therefore cannot have utility bills or credit card bills. If you are homeless and use a church for an address, you could receive credit card bills there but SOS won’t accept that as a viable address. You also can receive Medicaid statements at said church, but in the greatest irony, even though you have been receiving services in the State for 5 YEARS, SOS cannot verify that you are a resident of the State that provides services for you every month. Why? Well their databases don’t talk, which of course becomes your problem, even in 2015.
The end result is that the person that needs a job to get out of the woods can’t get one because they don’t have an ID. The person that needs a physical address can’t get one because you need ID and can’t get an ID without a physical address.
Let me tell you about a friend of mine that just got released from jail. His PO mandated that he MUST have an actual location so he could be checked on. The woods was not OK as an address. He didn’t have an ID. He found one hotel who took him temporarily without the ID. But when that hotel stopped taking weekly customers, he couldn’t find anyone else that would take him. The homeless shelter was full. He couldn’t get the ID because he didn’t have an address. Now, facing 3 years in prison for Parole Violation, he frantically knocked on every door at the hotel searching for someone to pay for a room for him with their ID, which I believe is actually illegal and given that he was prone to out of control behavior not a smart thing for any person to do unfortunately.
I don’t know what happened to him, he went off the grid again. Facing a 3 year prison sentence for no ID will make people do crazy things.
I’m not a Hillary Clinton fan quite frankly, and I think her logic in bringing up Voter registration is self serving, but the response of the Republicans that they are trying to prevent voter fraud isn’t addressing the point. You don’t need to use Student IDs that can easily be faked, just make it possible for everyone who is a US Citizen to easily obtain a valid State ID.
If you haven’t been around dozens of people who are stuck in a downward spiral that they cannot get out of over this, then its easy to say that “anyone” can get an ID. But hang around some homeless people for a while, you’ll see how tough it can be and how difficult it is for the homeless person to fix. Ultimately however, its this easy for the State to fix. Put each US citizen into a database accessible by SOS…and then verify that they don’t have current ID in any other State. If they don’t have an address, give them the local post office. The End.
Databases are built off of other databases ideally. They are intended to be relational. A Central Database containing things like birth certificate, Social Security number, etc for each and every citizen in this country is elementary…and then all other databases like those used by DHS and SOS would access their information from that central repository…and its all linked.
That’s how databases are supposed to work. If you have 15 different databases that do not speak and each contain the same fields that require a worker to enter the information every time, simple things like Name, or Address or even State, where each entry could be different in the different databases, you have failed at Database 101. (And in reality the address today means next to nothing. Do you know how many people are walking around with some homeless shelter as their address? People that are no longer there and haven’t been for years?)
You could make it mean something if you can account for situations like the person living on a couch or in the woods. Wherever they receive mail, that’s their address. If they have nowhere to receive mail, use the local post office address and collect their mail there. And put that address into the central database and then it automatically updates in every other database. As does State. And Social Security Number, etc…You enter a piece of information one time, and it shows up in every other governmental database automatically, for life.
Then, you could mandate that you couldn’t receive services in Michigan if your ID says Iowa. If you are receiving services in Michigan, you do not then need to verify that you live in Michigan because of course that would be redundant. Then, oh I don’t know, put a bar code on the ID to prevent fraud and link all polling places too. Oh, there already is a bar code. Imagine that?
We can’t do that in 2015?