What Came First, The Birth Certificate or the ID?

Getting an ID or driver’s license from your local department of motor vehicles may tax your patience but the process is not usually difficult: you bring your birth certificate and social security card, then walk out several hours or days later with a new license or ID.

Now imagine you’re homeless, trying to do this. You are hungry as you don’t know where your next meal is coming from. You have not showered in several days or a week. Your clothes are dirty as you can’t wash them. And you’re hearing voices telling you to kill yourself.

When you get to the head of the line, they want your birth certificate which has been lost for as long as you can remember. But you can’t get an ID without your birth certificate, which you can’t get without an ID. Now do you see the challenges the homeless face with getting what we call “document ready” so they can get into permanent housing?

In police homeless outreach, we help our clients navigate the bureaucracy to accelerate their acceptance into housing. And after helping several hundred clients get their documents, we’ve refined the process considerably.

We occasionally run into a hiccup. One of my clients has never had a birth certificate. He does not exist according to the state of Georgia. I know he exists – I talk to him regularly. But how do I prove that he exists. This is my current challenge. Stay tuned for details.