Living on the streets means that what little belongings you have often get lost or stolen. For homeless people, losing their identification documents comes with serious consequences — they cannot obtain government assistance or have access to shelters.
But a new California law that went into effect this past month will help many of them get off the street.
AB 1733 requires the state to provide the homeless with identification documents for free. In simple terms, that means it will be significantly easier for them to apply for jobs, enroll in public schools and get access to food stamps or homeless shelters.
For people like Davida Gomez, who has been homeless for five months, it means that her three children can now enroll in public school with their free birth certificates. A single birth certificate costs $28, and on her monthly public assistance of $785, it is almost impossible to afford three. It also means she will be able to apply for housing and a job to feed them.
"This situation is very tough," she told the Sacramento Bee, "and any help is big help."
Co-author of the bill and assembly member Sharon Quirk-Silva said that it was inspired by Kelly Thomas, a homeless man in California. Thomas suffered from schizophrenia and died in 2011 after he was beaten by three police officers.
"We are making sure they have IDs to access the services to get back on feet — either social services or mental health services," Quirk-Silva told KCET. "This is a simple step. Let's just get these IDs in their hands."
Cover image via iStock / paulprescott72