Senate Passes Legislation to Provide Free ID Cards to People Experiencing Homelessness
Bill to enable access to basic services by removing financial and documentation barriers
(BOSTON—7/27/23) The Massachusetts Senate on Thursday unanimously passed An Act to provide identification to youth and adults experiencing homelessness, to establish a process allowing an adult or youth experiencing homelessness to apply for a free Massachusetts identification card. Identification cards enable access to basic services in the Commonwealth that are often unreachable for those without identification.
“Fees and documentation are not just barriers to identification. By extension, they are barriers to getting a job, accessing healthcare, and applying for services—the most basic of necessities,” said Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “These barriers harm the most vulnerable people in our Commonwealth, and eliminating them is a compassionate step that makes the path to stability a little bit easier. I’d like to thank Senator Robyn Kennedy for sponsoring this bill, Senator Crighton for his support, and my colleagues in the Senate for moving forward with this important piece of legislation.”
People experiencing homelessness currently face prohibitive fees and documentation requirements that can be barriers to acquiring identification. This legislation removes those barriers by eliminating fees and only requiring that applicants present documentation showing that they are currently receiving services provided by the Commonwealth, a homeless service provider, or another service provider.
Having a state identification is a prerequisite for accessing many basic services, including applying for a job, enrolling in school, interacting with law enforcement, accessing government buildings, and opening bank accounts, among others. The struggles of homelessness are compounded by an inability to access these basic services, and often contribute to a cycle of poverty.
"This bill represents a critical first step in unlocking economic mobility opportunities for individuals experiencing homelessness. It will provide access to state IDs, which are essential for educational pursuits, healthcare access, and various social service programs. Our homeless youth, in particular, will benefit greatly from this measure as proper identification is the foundation for them to access food, shelter, and employment opportunities," Senator Susan L. Moran (Plymouth & Barnstable) emphasized. "I extend my heartfelt appreciation to Senators Kennedy and Crighton for spearheading this compassionate legislation. Together, we are taking concrete steps to make a difference in the lives of those experiencing homelessness."
This is the fourth consecutive session during which the Senate has adopted similar legislation.
The bill now heads to the Massachusetts House of Representatives for consideration.