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Mass. Senate ID Bill Aims To Open Up Opportunities for Homeless

The Massachusetts State House. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
The Massachusetts State House. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Individuals experiencing homelessness would be able to obtain cost-free Massachusetts identification using alternative documentation under a bill the Senate approved Thursday.

The bill, which passed on a 37-0 vote, instructs the Registrar of Motor Vehicles to create a new process for issuing state ID cards through which qualifying individuals without stable housing would not be required to pay application fees and could use residency documentation provided by a homeless services provider or another state agency.

Supporters say the updated program would help at-risk individuals, including unaccompanied homeless youth, acquire a key form of identification they need to complete job applications, open bank accounts and secure housing.

"For most people like you or I, getting a state ID means spending an afternoon at the RMV, waiting in line, providing a few documents and paying a small fee," said Sen. Harriette Chandler, the bill's lead sponsor. "For people experiencing homelessness, especially unaccompanied homeless youth, a few documents and a small fee are insurmountable financial and bureaucratic barriers."

Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairman Michael Rodrigues said anyone who obtains a state ID card under the bill would still need to provide proof of residence and citizenship to register to vote or acquire a driver's license.

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