Photo ID cards for homeless are under discussion

Recent discussion by a group of Grand Valley homeless-community stakeholders has raised the possibility of one day issuing photo-identification cards to area homeless people.

The idea was broached in a recent meeting of a subcommittee studying homeless issues for Grand Valley Coalition for the Homeless, which is charged with developing a 10-year plan to eliminate homelessness in the area.

The proposal received a lukewarm reception from at least one homeless advocate and has yet to have any formal planning behind it. It also would be years away for realization if adopted.

Lack of identification is a common hurdle for many homeless people in seeking jobs, housing or various forms of assistance available from agencies, several members of the subcommittee said.

Cards among area homeless people frequently are lost or damaged, or in some cases they’ve never had them, said Cory Tomps, an officer with the Grand Junction Police Department’s Homeless Outreach Team. Obtaining a fresh Social Security card or birth certificate is often a months-long project, he said.

“We’ve actually stood in line at the DMV with several people,” said Tomps, whose team is represented on the subcommittee discussing the ID-card proposal.

Discussion so far hasn’t touched on who would manage a database of card holders, who would have access to it or the specific information that would be listed on such cards, subcommittee members said.

One subcommittee member, Eric Niederkruger of Housing First! No More Deaths!, said he is eager to hear those details.

“This would certainly be good for people trying to get into housing programs who are being held back by a lack of ID,” Niederkruger said.

Niederkruger said he would oppose any system with a punitive aspect, such as denying services to homeless who refuse to carry identification.

“I’m very concerned with any ID-before-services approach,” Niederkruger said.

Mollie Woodard, with Homeward Bound of the Grand Valley, and another member of the subcommittee, said the ID-card idea was born of discussion between five people during a May meeting. Woodard, who also heads the Grand Valley Coalition for the Homeless, said they wouldn’t support any system that could result in a denial of services.

“The coalition’s entire mission is to provide better services to the homeless in our community,” Woodard said.


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