Thunder Bay groups aim to set up 'banks' to store identification

Homeless people in Thunder Bay may soon have a place to safely store their identification.
Thunder Bay may soon have an ID bank, a safe place where low-income and homeless people can store original copies of birth certificates and other vital documents so they can access services when they need them. (CBC)

Homeless people in Thunder Bay may soon have a place to safely store their identification. 

Two local groups have started working on bringing an ID bank to the city. 

The director of administration with the Kinna-aweya Legal Clinic said low income people often can't afford to replace ID if they lose it. Beth Ponka added such a bank would have helped a client of hers who lost her birth certificate when she lost her home.

"Now she has part-time employment, but she doesn't have a social insurance number and, unfortunately, she doesn't have her original birth certificate, so service Canada is not able to issue a social insurance number to her."

Beth Ponka, director of administration for Kinna-aweya, says if people happen to lose their ID for some reason, there are costs to replace the ID, which a lot of low-income people can't afford. (Supplied by Beth Ponka)

People need ID in order to apply for Ontario Works, the Ontario Disability Support Program, and other government and social services.

"A lot of times people who are living on low-income, if they happen to lose their ID for some reason, there are costs to replace the ID and a lot of people can't afford the cost,” Ponka continued.

Kinna-aweya, which provides legal advice and assistance to low income people, began holding ID clinics in May of 2012 to help low income people apply for ID.

The turn-out for the clinics is huge. The clinics are funded by the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario and the money is used to cover the application fees for the ID.

Ponka noted Kinna-aweya stores three notarized copies of clients' ID.  However, many agencies only accept original documents.

She said she recently spoke to Anne Ostrom of the Thunder Bay Drug Strategy about setting up an ID bank. The group had previously identified the need for an ID bank in its report entitled Roadmap for Change.

Ponka said Ostrom, in turn, approached the Toronto group Street Health for advice on setting one up. The Toronto group currently operates an ID bank in that city.

The Thunder Bay Drug Strategy will partner with the legal clinic to make the project happen, however, Ponka said it's too soon to say when the bank might get set up.


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