In a pinch it’s easy enough for most of us to prove we are who we say we are. We can simply pull out a driver’s license or, maybe a passport. Unfortunately, many of our guests at Broad Street Ministry don’t have that option. For those who have no ID, proving that they are who you are can be next to impossible. This is one reason why last year we began our Identification Restoration Initiative at BSM. And for one of our guests, this is also a reason that she was able to get her identity back.
Although Carol has lived in the US for many years, she was born in Scotland, and is still a citizen of the UK. After completing her studies in London, Carol traveled around the world working on a number of cruise ships. Two years ago, while Carol was living outdoors, and had to keep all of her important documents on her person, her wallet was stolen. In an instant every document that could prove her identity was gone. She had no green card, no passport, no social security card, and no state identification. And she had no way of getting those vital documents back.
Here’s the problem most of us don’t think about – How do you get identification, if you don’t have any identification? What do you need first the state ID to get the birth certificate, or the birth certificate to get the state Id? Without any documents at all, it’s hard to know where to begin. And just to add to the dilemma, in order to access most, if not all, vital services in Philadelphia you must have ID.
Actually, Carol’s first step involved neither of those choices. She realized that before she did anything else, she needed to establish an address where she could have those documents sent. So Carol met with Brittany, Broad Street Ministry’s Postmaster General, who helped her set up a mailing address through BSM’s mail service. Brittany also helped her acquire a BSM picture identification, which gave her the leverage she needed to finally reacquire her social security card, her Pennsylvania ID, her passport, and most importantly in terms of getting a job, her green card.
Looking back on all she went through, Carol says, “It felt good to be reassured I was who I said I was…even I was beginning to doubt.” Her newly restored identification has opened doors for her to travel, to work, and to access services throughout the city. Perhaps most surprising for Carol is that she found that the greatest benefit to reclaiming her identity has been that she again has a library card. “As silly as it may sound, it just feels so good to check out books from the library,” she remarked. And added benefit is that Carol is now enrolled in a computer class to help prepare her to reenter the workforce.
Filling out a change of address form, or getting a simple piece of plastic with a picture of ourselves that says we are who we may we are, may not seem like such a big deal. For Carol, though, and for the hundreds of other BSM guests, these seemingly insignificant things make all the difference in the world.
Stories from the Community
To read personal stories of individuals who have been impacted by the BSM Hospitality Collaboration click on the icons below.