All too often, the problem of access is overlooked when we think about the issues facing homeless people.
We think about how terrible it must be to sleep out in the cold, or go hungry, but it’s rare we pause and consider the ways in which people experiencing homelessness are kept trapped within the system by being unable to access things that ought to be their right. For example, one of the things homeless people struggle most to acquire is identification.
Without proof of address – something that you wouldn’t have if you’re sleeping rough – it is almost impossible to purchase an ID. Why is an ID so important, you might ask? Well, without ID you can’t open a bank account. Without a bank account, you cannot receive benefits or, in most case, receive a wage. However you’d struggle to get a job regardless without ID, as many places now require identification when registering new employees and a passport is required in most cases when one begins to rent a flat. Even if you could use the address of a friend or relative in order to have an address to register with, there is still the cost to consider. A person experiencing homelessness will often require every last penny to live, and acquiring a birth certificate and a passport can cost upwards of £100; a truly exorbitant fee. Over half of GP’s in England now require proof of address in order to register, so even the simple act of receiving the healthcare you are entitled to can be effected by a lack of identification and fixed address.
Church Homeless Trust is doing all we can to combat this issue. In part, this involves paying for many people now living in temporary or supported accommodation to get ID.
Kristoff was homeless for over 6 years, surviving by begging, before he was helped to get off the streets. Now sober and putting his life back together, he was prevented from doing many things by his lack of passport. Without support, he would have been trapped in the cycle of poverty. We supported him by purchasing him a new passport.
“By getting a new passport, which will be ready soon, I am able to do so much! I can finally have my own bank account, claim benefits to help me get by and give me financial independence.”
Identification is not the only thing that homeless people struggle to access. From the increasing scarcity of public restrooms and shower facilities, to the diminishing number of public libraries – vital for anyone without a phone to apply for any kind of help – access is something worth talking about when it comes to solving the problem of homelessness.
Throughout the summer, Church Homeless Trust will be talking about the problem of access across our social media channels, so please do get involved in the conversation.