Alberta to help homeless get ID cards
Homeless Albertans will be able to use the address of their shelter to obtain a provincial identification card under a government initiative announced Thursday.
"Personal identification has the effect of empowering people," Alberta's Minister of Housing and Urban Affairs Jonathan Denis said in Edmonton.
"It removes barriers to gaining employment, getting an apartment or setting up a bank account."
Homeless people will be given the same government identification cards issued to those who don't have a driver's licence. The card costs $12.30, and can be partly paid for by the province's Employment and Immigration department on an individual basis.
Staff at Alberta shelters and agencies that help the homeless will be trained to confirm the identity of their clients and help them obtain cards through an Alberta registry office.
The announcement follows a pilot project in Edmonton during the summer with Boyle Street Community Services, Hope Mission and Accu-Search Inc., a registry office in downtown Edmonton.
Twelve homeless people obtained identification cards during the pilot project.
Kaitrin Doll, an adult outreach worker at the Boyle Street Community Services, said during the pilot project workers were able to identify homeless people using a number of contacts in the community.
"The workers there would ask some identifying questions. Where were you in care? How many brothers and sisters do you have? What's your status number? You know, different questions like that...." said Doll.
They also confirmed identity with probation officers, Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped workers and officers of the public trustees.
The downside of the program is that it can be very labour-intensive to go through this process, Doll said.
"It takes a lot of time. It takes a lot of resources to go all through these alternative channels to try to decipher if this person is in fact who they say they are," she said.
"If I am signing my name to a document — like it's guaranteeing that person is who they say they are — and if I haven't fact-checked that properly, I can be brought into court. Like you better believe I'm going to be fact-checking that."
The identification program is part of Alberta's 10-year plan to end homelessness. It will be available to homeless people in Alberta's seven largest cities by late fall.