Identification: It’s about more than a card - United Way Alberta Capital Region

Identification: It’s about more than a card

May 9, 2022


The following blog was written by Boyle Street Community Services and is shared with their permission.

The ID Services program at Boyle Street Community Services—funded in part by United Way—breaks down barriers that may prevent houseless and marginalized people from getting and keeping identification. And with ID comes better access to health care, banking, and social supports.

Having identification is a rite of passage for many people in our culture and society. But it’s also something we can take for granted. Having identification can mean entry into entertainment venues, or access to goods and services. For many in our community, having ID is something that’s hard to come by and hard to hold on to.

ID is often needed for services our clients need the most. Food Banks, Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped and Alberta Works (basic income), and even housing or employment can often become difficult or impossible to access without it. With that in mind, our ID Services might be the most essential service we offer at Boyle Street Community Services. Photo Identification, Birth Certificates, Indian Status Cards, and Alberta Health Care Cards are necessary not only to access the traditional economy, but many other social supports as well. Sometimes the documents needed can be expensive to obtain, an added barrier that many experiencing chronic homelessness cannot overcome on their own.

Our ID Services is housed within our bank, Four Directions Financial, and builds relationships with our clients on a drop-in basis. Our coordinators then work with government agencies and registries to obtain an individual’s ID, which our program can help pay for. We also offer to store our clients’ ID securely and safely, providing photocopies and physical access as needed. Using our connections across the sector, we’re then able to refer clients to and help them access other wrap-around services such as housing, education, or income support.

On Friday, February 18, 2022, we announced that our ID Services have strengthened our partnership with Indigenous Services Canada (ISC). With this partnership, not only will ID Services be able to assist First Nations clients to apply for or renew their Secure Certificate of Indian Status (SCIS) cards, but we will also be able to assist First Nations clients in liaising with the ISC Alberta Regional Office for the purpose of registration. This comes at a time when having and holding on to this form of identification can mean getting the supports needed to combat the cycles of poverty and homelessness some of our clients can find themselves in.

The impact of this new program cannot be overstated. As Bob Frohlich, ID Services Coordinator, has said: “A newfound sense of self-worth, belonging, and personhood as a result of securing ID is an amazing thing to witness amongst the marginalized.”

For me, the Status card created a sense of pride in acknowledging that I was a First Nations Cree woman. What spoke to me so powerfully was that it also included the name of my home community, and I think I actually got teary-eyed to see my community’s name on the card. That was a connection I did not expect, and yet of all the things on the card, I recall thinking that was most special to me.

Jennifer, a 34-year-old Cree woman

Because of this partnership, our First Nations clients will not only have increased access to the application process, have a safe and secure location to access their cards, or to the wrap-around services that we offer, they will also have sense of greater community, access to culture, and the reassurance of their community.