Senate Passes Bill to Make State IDs More Accessible to People Experiencing Homelessness

by | Jan 19, 2022

The Massachusetts Senate passed S.2612, An Act to provide identification to youth and adults experiencing homelessness.

Currently, a person experiencing homelessness looking to obtain a Massachusetts identification card must surmount prohibitive fees and documentation requirements. The legislation passed today seeks to remedy these burdens. It directs the Registrar of Motor Vehicles to implement a specific process for individuals experiencing homelessness that waives fees and accommodates alternative residency documentation.

ID cards are necessary for applying to jobs, enrolling in school, interacting with law enforcement, accessing government buildings, opening financial accounts, and many more basic services that many take for granted. The current financial and form-filling barriers that exist within the process to obtain a state ID encourage a cycle of poverty and prevent many individuals experiencing homelessness from accessing basic services.

“Given that identification is a basic need, my colleagues and I felt that barriers needed to be removed so that anyone, regardless of their living situation, has access to Massachusetts Identification Cards,” said Senator Michael Moore (D-Millbury). “Those who are experiencing homelessness should have access to the same basic services as the rest of us, which is why we felt that this was such an important piece of legislation. I’d like to thank Senator Chandler for her leadership on this issue, as well as my fellow co-sponsors.”

“As the state begins to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and economic downturn, the Legislature must ensure that individuals experiencing homelessness have the same fundamental opportunities to succeed and thrive. One fundamental key to accessing basic services are state-issued IDs. Currently, people experiencing homelessness face significant financial and bureaucratic barriers when they attempt to obtain an ID. Now is the time to break down bureaucratic barriers that fuel the cycle of poverty as we look towards a post-pandemic world,” said Senate President Emerita Harriette L. Chandler (D-Worcester).

Under this legislation, a proof of residency for persons experiencing homelessness can be established through alternative documentation that is determined to be satisfactory by the Registrar. This alternative documentation can be provided by a homeless services provider or by the Executive Office of Health and Human Services.

The bill now moves to the House of Representatives for their consideration.

Statements of Support

“For homeless individuals, barriers to obtaining an ID mean more barriers to accessing basic and vital activities and assistance. The Rosie’s Place community wholeheartedly supports the passing of Senator Chandler’s bill, S.2612, as we believe it will ultimately create more equity and opportunity for some of the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable citizens.” – Leemarie Mosca, President/CEO, Rosie’s Place

“The passage of S.2612 would be life-changing for thousands of young people across Massachusetts. At Breaktime, we see the massive barriers young adults experiencing housing insecurity face when trying to get a state ID. Many of these high-potential young people are estranged from their families and lack access to proper documentation, support in navigating a complex administrative process, and money to cover the cost of the ID. Without an ID, young adults like the Associates at Breaktime struggle to get a job, secure housing, and access other services. S.2612 would address these challenges head on. By easing burdensome documentation requirements and subsidizing costs, S.2612 would make it much easier for young adults like the Associates at Breaktime to obtain an ID and thus more easily attain stable employment, housing, and financial security. This bill is a no-brainer, and the young people of the Commonwealth are watching to see how our legislators vote.” – Connor Schoen, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Breaktime.

“We engage in countless trainings, convenings, and conversations with service providers who work with youth experiencing homelessness and without fail, the barriers created by the existing system for obtaining state ID nearly always come up,” said Deborah Silva, Executive Director of Massachusetts Appleseed Center for Law and Justice. “We’re grateful to the Massachusetts Senate and especially Senator Chandler for stepping up to address this failure of policy that impacts thousands of our most vulnerable youth across the state. It’s now critical we keep going and ensure this bill makes it all the way to the Governor’s Desk.”

“We are thrilled that the State Senate has taken decisive action to remove obstacles so that youth and adults experiencing homelessness can access Massachusetts ID cards. We know that the lack of a Mass ID is a common, yet needless, barrier to accessing housing, wraparound services, job training, financial assistance, and educational supports. We call on the House of Representatives to take swift action to pass the bill as well. Prompt passage and enactment of the Massachusetts ID access bill is critical, especially at a time when the ripple effects of the COVID-19 pandemic further complicate access to housing and resources for families and individuals from every region of the Commonwealth who are experiencing homelessness and lack a Mass ID.” – Kelly Turley, Associate Director, Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless.