Personal ID: the catalyst that can change a life

If you have ever lost your wallet, you don’t need me to tell you how important identification is.

Without ID, you can’t open a bank account, see a doctor, have a drink after work or buy a pack of cigarettes. If you rely on social programs in the city, not having identification makes things even harder. Finding a job, renting an apartment, enrolling in programs, accessing a low-income transit pass or the food bank — all of these things require identification.

And yet, despite the importance of identification, many Calgarians face barriers to accessing ID, and subsequently those supports and opportunities that require it. One of the most significant barriers for Calgarians with lower incomes is the cost associated with securing government ID. For households struggling to cover rent and food every month, an additional $30 for a birth certificate can represent a significant financial strain. Others struggle to secure needed documents to apply for ID and may need additional support in navigating complex systems.

In June 2012 United Way began a pilot program to address the need of identification in the Calgary community. United Way and its community partners determined that additional supports are needed to ensure that our most vulnerable populations can access identification. It’s not only a basic need but a basic right, essential to stability, well-being and full participation in society.

To ensure the community has the resources it needs in this area, United Way has launched a Do it Yourself Guide to Identification, designed to help people access identification from government, banks, and registries. It provides accurate information on requirements, costs, and agencies in your community that can help you.

People need identification to be fully functioning members of society. Assisting people in accessing identification opens a door to a multitude of possibilities. ID can be the catalyst to help turn someone’s life around. It’s the game changer that enables people to be housed, receive social benefits and access the medical or mental health care they need.

—Katie Wolfe, Identification Project Coordinator, United Way of Calgary and Area

(Photo from Flickr, by Lukasz Fabis.)

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