Friedman Supports Senate Legislation to Provide Free ID Cards to People Experiencing Homelessness

Bill to enable access to basic services by removing financial and documentation barriers

(BOSTON—7/27/23) Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) joined her colleagues in the Massachusetts Senate on Thursday as the chamber unanimously passed An Act to provide identification to youth and adults experiencing homelessness. The legislation would establish a process to allow an adult or youth experiencing homelessness to apply for a free Massachusetts identification card. Identification cards enable access to basic services in the Commonwealth that are often unreachable for those without identification.  

“As an elected member of the Massachusetts senate, I strongly believe that we have a duty to ease the burdens on our most vulnerable populations in accessing basic services,” said Senator Friedman, Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing. “Providing an opportunity for those experiencing homelessness to retain a sense of normalcy and humanity during a challenging time should always be a priority, and providing free identification cards can lessen the barriers these individuals face daily. Identification cards are a tool that can be used to gain employment, housing, healthcare, and more, and I am glad to see the Senate lead on this legislation once again to address this important issue.”

People experiencing homelessness currently face prohibitive fees and documentation requirements that can be barriers to acquiring identification. This legislation removes those barriers by eliminating fees and only requiring that applicants present documentation showing that they are currently receiving services provided by the Commonwealth, a homeless service provider, or another service provider.

Having a state identification is a prerequisite for accessing many basic services, including applying for a job, enrolling in school, interacting with law enforcement, accessing government buildings, and opening bank accounts, among others. The struggles of homelessness are compounded by an inability to access these basic services, and often contribute to a cycle of poverty.

This is the fourth consecutive session during which the Senate has adopted similar legislation.

The bill now heads to the Massachusetts House of Representatives for consideration.