On Monday, May 22nd, the City of Hartford launched their new municipal ID card
program. The program, which will offer photo IDs to residents of the City of
Hartford, presents a great opportunity for many of our neighbors experiencing
homelessness. Obtaining identification documents can be a huge barrier to
housing and employment for folks staying in the shelters and outdoors. If you do
not have a safe place to stay, keeping track of things like a birth certificate or a
social security card can be difficult. And if those documents are lost, it can be a
huge challenge to get a replacement. For example, to receive a photo ID at the
Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), you need to prove that you
are a CT resident by producing mail, you need to prove your identity with a list of
government issued documents, and you need to prove your age (often with a
birth certificate). If you do not have all three pieces of identification, the DMV
will not issue a photo ID. The Hartford City ID program also requires applicants
to provide proof of identity and residency, but the broad range of documents that
can be used makes the municipal IDs much more accessible for those
experiencing homelessness.

What makes Hartford’s process so much more accessible for folks experiencing
homelessness is the fact that homeless residents can use a form that is printed
out from the Homeless Management Information System (a database used by all
local shelters) as proof of their identity to obtain this card. This is a major step
towards removing some of the barriers of receiving a photo ID card, and in turn,
can be a major step towards obtaining housing. The program is financially self sustaining through the $10 or $15 dollar fee. Journey Home’s Housing Choice Voucher Preference Coordinator, Leana Ruiz, recently tested this process with a client, accompanying him to apply for this card with the database form in hand. The experience was easy, all documents were referred to the client after they applied for the card, and the ID will be arriving in the mail shortly. The City of Hartford’s municipal ID program, riding the coattails of a similar program in New York City where the ID program allows folks, who may otherwise struggle to obtain a government ID, access to proof of their identity. In Hartford, this ID will be accepted as proof of identity for all city offices, including the police department, and polling stations.

In Hartford, this program has been in a planning phase for two years, initially
pitched by former Hartford Mayor, Pedro Segarra, and ultimately implemented
in May under Mayor Bronin’s administration. Janice Castle, Director of
Community Engagement at the City of Hartford has worked diligently with the
program vendor to ensure the process is confidential, efficient, and most of all,
serving those who need it most.

Journey Home’s Executive Director, Matt Morgan, attended the City’s press
conference on the first day of the new ID program. Matt shared his hopes that
this card can help people get quickly off of the streets and into housing. Our
neighbors experiencing homelessness face many barriers, and one of the largest
is often identification. Journey Home is so excited to have seen this program
finally come alive, and we hope it will help our community accelerate progress
towards ending homelessness