Too many homeless people in Michigan are blocked from improving their lives by unreasonable requirements to have state identification cards, according to representatives of metro Detroit agencies who met Friday at a conference in Waterford. “This has been a growing problem for years and it’s reached a crisis point,” said Elizabeth Kelly, executive director of the Hope Hospitality and Warming Center, a homeless shelter in Pontiac. Homeless people rarely possess driver’s licenses, so most depend on ID cards issued by Secretary of State offices. But to get the state ID card demands unreasonable proof of identity, said Kelly and others at the Homeless Healthcare Collaboration conference. They said rules were tightening at Social Security offices too, and that’s keeping some homeless people from accessing the services they need. “You have people going to the Secretary of State and being told they have to have a Social Security card, and so they go to a Social Security office and they’re told they have to have a state ID card — it’s a classic case of Catch-22,” University of Michigan social research professor Gregory Markus told the audience.
Markus and his graduate students have visited Secretary of State offices “hundreds of times” while doing research on obstacles homeless people deal with, he said.
A lack of sufficient ID keeps people from getting jobs, cashing their checks, renting housing, getting utilities turned on, buying a bus pass and voting, said Jason Wasserman, a sociologist who teaches at Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine in Rochester.
… A spokesman for the Michigan Secretary of State Office said federal authorities required all states to increase the level of proof people must show for obtaining state IDs after the 9/11 attacks and after Congress passed the Real ID Act. It spells out uniform requirements for states issuing official identification. Although the act passed in 2005, states were given multiple postponements before implementing it, and some rules are just becoming effective this year, according to the act.