College Park residents team up to help people in need receive an identification.
“Get a job.”
That’s how some respond when asked for money from the homeless.
Sometimes it’s not that simple, though. Getting a job can require documentation such as a driver’s license, birth certificate, or Social Security card. People who lack an ID typically don’t have all these forms stashed in their filing cabinet. Whether it’s due to homelessness, a house fire, or fleeing domestic violence, there are many reasons why someone might be without an ID.
That’s where IDignity steps in. IDignity is a nonprofit organization that aims to help those without the means to get a state-certified identification. Having official identification is essential to perform some everyday tasks most would take for granted.
Progress Sector Administration Reform Institute Report Says Public By Of “It could be things as nuanced as you can’t check out a book at a library,” IDignity Executive Director Michael Dippy said. “You can’t recycle cans. There’s so many little nuances you don’t even think about.”
College Park resident Anne Taylor is the development director for IDignity. “I think the most important thing that I really like to highlight about IDignity is the mission statement,” she said. “It’s that we give the dignity and the hope by providing identification.”
IDignity hosts monthly Client Service Events where hundreds of people come to get identification, birth certificates, Social Security cards, and other forms of identification. Offering all these services for free to those in need requires a great influx of volunteers, and College Park residents have stepped up.
Progress Sector Administration Reform Institute Report Says Public By Of Brenda Prochaska, Nancy Kitch, Glenda Lenihan, and Alana Brenner are four volunteers from College Park who have given their time to volunteer at the monthly events.
Lenihan said that driving down Colonial every day and seeing homeless people outside of the Salvation Army inspired her to give back.
An IDignity volunteer shift typically spans from 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and involves clients moving from station to station until they reach their final destination — the FLOW mobile. “FLOW” stands for Florida Licensing on Wheels; the vehicle holds all the staff and equipment necessary to print a state-issued ID.
Not all cases can be solved in a day, though. Obtaining identification can be laborious.
Taylor said that some cases can last years due to complications of obtaining different forms and certificates. Each situation is unique, and some can be more involved than others. Out-of-state birth certificates, marriage licenses, and Social Security cards are just some of the documents one may need to obtain an ID. An attorney is required to be on hand to procure sensitive documents.
IDignity doesn’t charge its clients, but providing all this to people in need isn’t free. Taylor said each client at IDignity receives an average of $250 worth of services, and IDignity relies on donations to continue to operate. Contributions can be made online by visiting idignity.org.
It’s not just individuals from College Park who have helped this organization. Businesses from Infusion Tea to Dunkin Donuts on Edgewater Drive and the Tap Room at Dubsdread on Par Street have made donations in kind.
There are many ways to help out in the community through volunteering or donating, but contributing at IDignity offers something unique — solid proof that you helped someone.
“It’s nice to have a deliverable,” Brenner said. “Something specific that you say, ‘We’ve accomplished this today.’ Especially with the homeless population because you can get really burned out with just giving, giving, giving, and you don’t feel anything changes. But with IDignity, you have something concrete.”
Helping individuals get their ID helps them in many ways. They can open a bank account, get a job, and find a home — all things that were more difficult or impossible without identification.
Mick Davis lost his wallet a month before the July event. It had his Social Security card, his driver’s license, and all the proofs of identification he had. He was waiting in line at the IDignity event when asked how getting an ID would help him.
“How’s it gonna help?” Davis said. “I can get a job. You need an ID. Everyone asks for it.”
Dippy said initial studies have shown that 38 percent of people who get an ID from IDignity are employed within a month.
“I was a business person, so I’m looking at return on investment,” Kitch said. “You can’t find anything better in terms of how many people you can help, and help definitively, in such a short period of time at such a low dollar amount.”
An example of the effect getting an ID has can be seen from one client’s story that stuck out to Kitch.
“He was so grateful because he had a job available to him, but he couldn’t do the job because he didn’t have that piece of paper. The night before he came there, he had slept on a piece of cardboard somewhere by the lake across the street from the Salvation Army,” Kitch said. “He came, and he said somebody had stolen his cardboard that he was sleeping on.
“You hear those stories, and it’s not something that you can even relate to.”
Taylor remembers a woman who was ashamed of her past and expected to be shunned when she showed up at one of IDignity’s monthly events.
“She told me she was so scared that we would look down on her because she was an ex-felon. She’s missing her top layer of teeth. She’s been without an ID for 17 years,” Taylor said. “She had all of these barriers that she thought we would just say, ‘Oh, no. We can’t help you.’
“And the first thing we said is, ‘Yes, we can help you. You’re born in Florida. That’s awesome. We can get your Florida birth certificate today.’ So, she left with everything. The very next day, she got a job, and now she’s still working at the same place.”
These are just two examples of the effect IDignity volunteers can have, and they’ve helped more than 20,000 people.