A new group in Halifax is helping marginalized people get the identification they need to vote, and to do other fundamental things.
The Identification Clinic is a volunteer group that aims to put IDs in the hands of the homeless and the disadvantaged.
Darren Greer is one of the founders of the Identification Clinic. He says it began when he put a notice on Facebook, wondering if anyone he knew would be willing to help fund such a project.
He says donors quickly provided the money he was looking for, and he was up and running within a week.
Greer found his first clients by walking up to people on the street, and asking if they needed help. They replied with an immediate and enthusiastic yes.
"A lot of them have had ID before and have lost it," said Greer. "They are so often asked for it, and refused services because of it, that they understand probably better than a lot of us what these IDs mean."
You need ID to get social assistance, and even after you receive social assistance, if the Community Services Department issues a grocery voucher, or a voucher for a drug store, you need ID to pick that up.
"That's been a problem in the past, both for community services and the clients that they are serving," said Greer.
If a person is already in the system, it could be a simple matter of helping him or her navigate the application process, and renew a photo ID. But if they have to start from scratch, that could mean coming up with three pieces of ID in order to get a photo ID.
'We ease their anxiety'
"Their best option is a birth certificate and an MSI card, and then a third piece of ID with their name on it — which could be a bank card. So we will open them a bank account to get that," said Greer.
Greer has struck up a deal with a bank, Halifax's Mumford Road branch of Bank of Montreal.
When The Identification Clinic sets up an account for a client, and the first social assistance cheque is direct-deposited. The bank will contribute a further $25 to the account, plus give $25 to The Identification Clinic, to help pay for expenses. He hopes that other banks will offer the same deal.
The Identification Clinic is just entering its third week of operation, but Greer says so far, the volunteers have been met with a lot of gratitude from the people they are helping.
"They don't get picked up and driven around very much, so they are just happy to go with us; they're happy to wait," he said.
"We help them with the forms, we ease their anxiety, because there seems to be a lot of anxiety among these people, immediately upon entering Access Nova Scotia or Vital Statistics."
People are happy for the guidance and the support, he said.
"Plus we buy them lunch at Tim Hortons."
You can find out more at theidclinic.org, or by calling 902-292-4587.