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Joseph's Journey: Joseph's Home works to overcome the identification crisis for people experiencing homelessness

The recent issue of Joseph's Journey, the biannual newsletter of Joseph’s Home, features an article about the identification crisis facing people experiencing homelessness, as well as information about Perseverance in Hope, the Joseph's Home virtual benefit luncheon happening October 28, a letter from Executive Director Beth Graham about creating change for a better world for all, news updates and more.

Below is the text from the cover story. Read the complete Joseph's Journey newsletter here.

Proving that Everybody is Somebody


To get housing, you need ID. To get an ID in Ohio, you need a proof of legal residence in the United States, proof of Ohio residency and proof of a social security number. Those are the minimum requirements. How do you provide any of these documents if you have been experiencing homelessness or living on the streets and in a shelter?

When a new resident arrives at Joseph’s Home, staff evaluate which forms of identification (ID, birth certificate, social security card) residents need so they can access opportunities for housing and jobs, and even express their right to vote. In previous years, Eileen Kelly, director of the Identification Crisis Collaborative, helped residents secure these important documents. Eileen recently trained Joseph’s Home staff members to complete this process in-house.

Since 1999, Eileen has been helping Cleveland’s poorest citizens face the systematic inequities caused by identification requirements. Eileen spent years working at St. Colman’s Church on Cleveland’s near West Side, providing meal assistance, access to emergency funds, computer labs and much more to anyone who sought help. In 1999, she noticed a growing number of people coming to her for help obtaining IDs and birth certificates that were required to cash checks, open bank accounts, obtain housing and apply for jobs.

Soon, the word got out and she was overwhelmed with requests for help. The Identification Crisis Collaborative was born to help those in need identify the documents they needed, file the paperwork necessary, provide financial support to obtain these documents, and train other organizations and partners to provide these services, including Joseph’s Home. 

For those experiencing homelessness, the barriers to obtaining identifications can be daunting. Lack of computer access, little money and having no experience with these systems can prevent someone from obtaining an ID independently. Eileen sees this work as addressing the first of many challenges people experiencing homelessness face. “My goal is to address that first challenge so they don’t get stuck. Once they have an ID, then they can move onto housing, jobs, health care, voting, whatever they need to do. It arms them with that basic need for the rest of their journey.”

“There are ways to prove people are somebody without IDs. One person at a time—one precious person at a time—we try to straighten up the mess so they can get their identification.”

Joseph's Home is a ministry of the Sisters of Charity Health System.

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