LEXINGTON, Ky. — Lawmakers head back to Frankfort next week to resume the 2023 legislative session. It’s prompting homeless provider organizations in central Kentucky to lobby for passaging House Bill 21, which would remove barriers to allow homeless individuals to get proper identification cards.
The bill introduced on Jan. 3 calls for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet to establish procedures that allow homeless individuals to get proper identification.
There are three parts to the proposed bill. It would allow temporary housing providers to sign a form verifying where current residents are staying. They could then apply to receive a driver’s license or a new or renewed personal ID. Second, it would allow a homeless minor over the age of 16 to apply for an ID card without parental consent. Third, it would reduce the cost of identification to $5 for people experiencing homelessness.
“People in our community are one paycheck away from homelessness,” said Lori Clemons, executive director of Arbor Youth Services.
Clemons works for a nonprofit known as Central Kentucky’s only emergency shelter for unaccompanied children. She has helped dozens of people facing homelessness for a decade.
Her organization helps people up to 24 years with emergency shelter, permanent housing, identification and more. She says it can be a long process with current laws for homeless people.
“Let’s track down your birth certificate. Let’s get you a social security card or a medical record to get your social security card. And then right now, addresses are needed so we allow youth experiencing homelessness to use the address of our outreach center,” Clemons said. “So now, in that case, that’s their ‘permanent address,’ even though it’s not a permanent address. So when we do get them into housing now, we have to change their address.”
Clemons says the COVID-19 pandemic made things even worse for the homeless. Frequently, her organization has waited with people for hours at a time because of reduced appointments at DMVs.
With proper identification, she says things like jobs, housing and medical needs would be easier to get. She wants people to know that she’s advocating for people of all ages experiencing homelessness, not just young people.
“We are pushing [passage of HB 21] so hard because it really will make a big difference in serving the entire population and until you’re in that moment where you can’t renew your license or can’t get an ID, you don’t ever realize this is a headache,” said Clemons.
She’s hoping to eliminate just one more barrier to reduce the cycle of homelessness in the commonwealth. House Bill 21 is sponsored by Kentucky State Rep. Randy Bridges (R-Paducah). The legislative session resumes on Tuesday, Feb. 7.