For most of us, losing a photo ID is little more than a wasted afternoon at the local Department of Motor Vehicles. But for the 2.5 to 3.5 million Americans who experience homelessness every year, valid identification can be the difference between life and death. Applicants must prove their identities in order to access federal programs like Social Security and Medicaid, and to legally work, open a bank account, or sign a lease. Lack of identification can even prevent people from entering temporary shelters. This issue disproportionately affects homeless people, who are among the most likely to be without vital documents.
In Atlanta, where 10,000 people experience homelessness on any given night, tech designer India Hayes, communications pro Amber McCain, and filmmaker Anita Jones are trying to solve some of these problems by helping them replace lost or stolen documents so they can obtain government identification.
The trio’s social enterprise, Mini City, launched in 2017 with a year-long pilot at the Salvation Army of Metro Atlanta—where they helped hundreds of people through the process of obtaining vital records. “Vital records are not typically top of mind for people when serving the homeless population,” Jones says. “We’re looking to fill that gap and allow people to take the next step out of transitional housing or off the street.”
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