At Hope Inc. in Wahiawa, clinical director Bernice Arang has encountered a big stumbling block to helping her homeless clients apply for housing.
"There is a huge initiative with trying to resolve the homeless situation but the key piece right now, for us at least on our end, is the identification process," she said.
So far this year, Hope Inc. and other homeless outreach agencies have surveyed 1,711 homeless families and individuals on Oahu. Of that number, 540 were listed as potentially eligible for the state or city's Housing First programs. But only 62 have a picture ID that proves who they are. So 478 homeless families and individuals can't clear the first hurdle to getting into housing.
"That's a staggering number," said Scott Morishige of advocacy group PHOCUSED.
He said the ID issue illustrates the complexity of getting homeless people housed.
"It's a major barrier. And it's not only a barrier to them getting into housing. Not having an ID is also a barrier to getting income," Morishige said.
IDs are lost or stolen. At times they are also inadvertently taken during the city's enforcement of its sidewalk nuisance and stored property ordinances, although the city's policy is to allow individuals to retrieve IDs, medications and other necessities before they are removed.
"There's a $40 fee to get or renew your identification card now. And then $6 for duplicates. When you're homeless you don't have much means," Hope Inc. Outreach Specialist Elena Pauole-Via said.
Hope Inc. pays for as many ID applications as the agency can afford. But that's limited. and it drains the non-profit's funds.
"We definitely need some sort of help to fund the identification process for housing," Arang said.
Homeless service providers and other agencies who help the homeless may soon be asking for legislation to waive the fees for state IDs for homeless individuals.
"One of the things we're also looking at is trying to partner more with local businesses. Can we get a small flexible fund started to help cover some of these fees for things like IDs that can't be covered by most of the mainstream government contracts," Morishige said.
Arang said out of 100 homeless clients Hope Inc. has worked with this year, only 20 potentially qualify for Housing First because they have picture IDs. That leaves 80 on the outside of the process, unable to take the first step.