I first met R.L. 2 1/2 years ago. Assigned to the registration table, R.L. was one of the first people to sit down in front of me to complete a form requesting assistance asking for help in obtaining his Florida ID. I took the application, informed R.L. to return the following week, and continued with my duties.
A couple of months later, my responsibilities changed, and now I was part of the team helping people in their quest for ID as well as birth certificates, social security cards, and other documentation needed to as part of the ID process. Again, R.L. met me asking for an ID. He’d been working with other volunteers for weeks without any success in getting the documentation necessary to meet the Real ID requirements of the state.
In fact, we explained to R.L. that we didn’t see how we could assist him since he lacked any of the proof needed to obtain his birth certificate or social security card, without which an ID would not be possible. Disappointed, R.L. went on his way, but every few months he returns with the same request, and despite our best efforts, we have been unable to help.
Last week, I met with R.L. once again and he’s becoming more desperate recognizing that he’ll lose the benefits he receives if he cannot obtain a government issued ID.
Now I’m sure that sentence will illicit negative comments by many. What? He receives government handouts? Yes, R.L. receives a monthly benefit as well as a small amount of food stamps. Just enough that he’s been able to mange to survive with a roof over his head.
I can hear the outrage. Cut off the handouts. Tell him to get a job.
That sounds great, but there aren’t many employers standing in line to hire a 60 year old African American male with few if any skills, with many missing teeth, especially since he wears clothing from the donations received at the church and the black T-shirt with the phrase, “I’m the Bride”, isn’t exactly work attire.
But even if R.L. is the perfect candidate for a local business, he can’t get a job because he doesn’t have ID. You see, employers must verify the ID and social security number of their employees, and some even require birth certificates.
So without an ID, R.L. CANNOT:
- get a job
- access services from the Salvation Army or other organizations designed to help those down on their luck
- open a bank account
- vote (not high on his list of priorities)
- ride a bus, train, or plane (not that he can afford a ticket)
- recycle – that’s right, you have to have an ID to get cash for cans collected along the roads
and soon, R.L. will not be able to access the benefits that currently keep him off the streets. So without your prayers, without a miracle, R.L. will join the ranks of those living on the streets.
I’m sure you may still be confused about why we can’t help R.L. with an ID. What’s the big deal? You go to the health department, fill out a form, hand over $13 and bingo…birth certificate. However, there’s one other requirement. You must prove who you are to get that important document. You must show your ID. No ID, then have a parent apply for you. R.L.’s an only child, not married, no children, and his parents are deceased. Of course, there are some other documents that can be used to prove your identity, like a passport…right! or military records…not a veteran! or a health insurance card…uninsured! or a tax return…remember, no job! or a W-2…again, no job!
Two and a half years. No ID. No solution in sight. Pray for R.L.