State Agencies Help Camp Hope Residents Obtain Essential IDs

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October 28 — Joseph Vara is seated on a folding chair, at a folding table, in a large bustling tent.

This is not the kind of place where official government transactions normally occur. Vara’s feet rest on the bare earth. His voice is hard to make out above the rumble of generators and the general hubbub. Some of the people lining up behind him are lying on military-style cots and eating sandwiches out of plastic bags.

But across from Vara is a Washington State Licensing Department worker with a laptop and portable printer, helping him get the first ID he’s had in 15 years. The corner of this 2,000 square foot tent at Camp Hope has been turned into an impromptu office for the Licensing Department.

Vara, who is homeless, said getting an ID will change her life.

He will be able to cash checks, buy tobacco products, register a car and go see a doctor. Above all, his new identity document will allow him to move into an apartment. He is on the waiting list and hopes to move into a home within a few months.

The 55-year-old Spokane-born man said he had tried to get a Washington ID several times over the years but couldn’t due to a handful of hurdles, including a speeding ticket he couldn’t afford to pay.

Vara said getting an ID made him feel “part of society.”

“It’s not a reject anymore,” he said. “It’s like you belong again.”

Over the past two weeks, the Licensing Department has issued 150 identification cards and driver’s licenses to people living in Camp Hope, the tent city along Interstate 90 east of Spokane. The state Department of Health issued 45 birth certificates, which are often a prerequisite for obtaining a national identity card. The Washington State Department of Commerce covers the cost of identification.

It is a historic effort.

“It’s the first time we’ve done something like this, come out and broadcast,” said Sandra Najera, Community Outreach Manager for the Licensing Department.

Laura Martin, vice president of operations at the Empire Health Foundation, said a lack of identification documents is one of the biggest barriers when it comes to helping homeless people find housing. permanent. Landlords generally do not accept tenants who do not have ID.

Health Department state registrar Katie Hutchinson, who commutes from Olympia to help people get birth certificates, said many Americans take having ID for granted.

“Our society is all about having proof of who you are,” she said.

Homeless service providers working at Camp Hope say the IDs are an example of how people who stay there are progressing.

In recent months, the population of the encampment has fallen from around 600 inhabitants to less than 450.

Maurice Smith, who works at Camp Hope with Jewels Helping Hands’ security team, said in an email to members of the Spokane Homeless Coalition this week that more than 100 of the camp’s residents have moved into ” meaningful housing alternatives”.

“Some have left for drug treatment, some have gone to transitional housing, some have found permanent housing and some have left to reconnect with family. But ALL are no longer homeless and live in a refugee camp. homeless,” Smith wrote. “We’re moving people out of camp and moving their lives forward and we’re doing it the right way.”

About 40 more people have moved into Spokane’s new homeless shelter on Trent Avenue, Smith wrote.

The licensing and health departments plan to recreate their rigged ID office once again on Wednesday.

Najera said homeless people living outside of Camp Hope heard about the licensing effort and took advantage of it. Getting a license, ID or birth certificate is often a difficult and time-consuming process, she said, and people don’t need to live in Camp Hope to visit the temporary ID site. .

“As long as they keep coming, we will serve them,” she said.

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