"I'm a Real Person Again!"
May 7, 2021
Imagine for a moment that you live in a tent under a bridge. You’ve only been homeless for a few weeks, and things are actually starting to look up. You just had a job interview earlier in the day that seems promising enough. You have relevant experience, and you feel like it’ll be a good fit. It is giving you the first glimmer of hope you have had in quite a while. If things go well, maybe you can even get an apartment within the next few weeks. Maybe your kids could even come and live with you again sometime in the near future. That’s what you’ve been praying for. On your way back to your tent for the night, you hear a rustling in the bushes behind you. Before you can turn around, you’ve been clubbed over the head with a rock. You’re lying in the dirt, slipping in and out of consciousness, but you feel hands digging in your pockets for your wallet. When you come to, you realize that everything has been stolen from you – your cash and credit cards, all of your ID documents, even the photos of your kids that you keep in your backpack. Thankfully, you get that job you were hoping for, but the company can’t hire you, because you’re unable to provide ID for their new hire paperwork. Early the next morning, you go to the post office to get your last unemployment check so you can buy food. You haven’t eaten in three days. But no place in town will cash the check for you, because you have no ID. You contact the Vital Records department to get a copy of your birth certificate, but you have to provide an ID. So you call PennDot to get a copy of your state ID, but they ask for your birth certificate. You can’t figure out how your life unraveled so quickly. At the end of your rope, with nowhere else to turn, you walk in the doors at City Mission. Immediately, you get a hot meal, a soft bed, a change of clothes, and you meet Career Services Manager, Brianna Kadlecik. “I can help you,” she says. She sits you down in the Career Training and Education Center and hands you an application. She tells you that the Mission has helped to provide roughly 850 identity documents for their residents since she started working there four years ago and already 133 pieces of identification since this past October.“90% of our residents come to us missing at least one of the key ID documents: Birth Certificate, SocialSecurity Card, or State ID,” she explains. “And the doors it can open up for you when you get them are amazing! Employment, housing, and things like that.”You tell her you were born and raised in Pennsylvania. “That’ll make it easy,” she says. And she explains that the best place to start is to contact the Vital Records department to get your birth certificate. As a social worker, she can make the request on your behalf. You just have to sign a letter giving her permission. That can really speed up the process and help you navigate the loop of having to provide ID to get your birth certificate. “Huge props to PA,” she adds. “They have a homeless fee waiver for birth certificates, which is tremendous. Not many states offer that.” Brianna explains that your application should go pretty quick, but sometimes out-of-state requests can get a bit tricky. She tells you a story about a former resident who came to the Mission in January of 2018. She was born in Texas. The only ID she had was an expired driver’s license from Michigan. Her parents were no longer alive, and she really had no family to vouch for her identity or make the request on her behalf. Brianna explained that they were between a rock and a hard place with the Texas Vital Records department and every application they submitted was rejected for six months.“Ultimately, she needed a state ID to get a job, but first, we had to get her birth certificate, because that unlocks all the other doors,” Brianna says. “I give her a ton of credit. She was so patient.” Waiting on the ID documents set her job search back several months, but Brianna and the resident never gave up. At the end of July that year, the birth certificate finally came in the mail. “When it finally came in,” Brianna remembers, “we were both over the moon. We had worked so hard. And she definitely needed it.” When your birth certificate comes in the mail three weeks later, Brianna hands it to you across the table in the Career Training and Education Center. “We’re here to help you remove barriers,” she smiles. “And this birth certificate is going to take barriers away and help you secure employment and housing and get you on your way to independence. It may seem like just a small, little thing right now, but it’s actually a HUGE thing.”You hold the crisp, new birth certificate in your hands. It has your name printed on it in bold letters.“I’m a real person,” you say, without thinking. “This proves that I’m a real person again.” Now, you have the documentation you need to get a job, apply for public housing, rent an apartment, cash a check, apply for student loans, etc. Just a few pieces of paper unlock all of these doors for you. City Mission has helped hundreds of people walk through these doors. With your help, together, we can help hundreds more. Visit www.citymission.org to learn more about how you can help.