New legislation allows Guam’s homeless to get IDs

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Sen. Mary Camacho Torres (PNC file photo)

Guam – Without an ID, it’s nearly impossible to overcome homelessness. A recently introduced legislation would allow homeless individuals to obtain the identification they need.

 Cited as the “Homeless Youth and Families Identification Act,” Bill 126-35 would require the Department of Revenue and Taxation (DRT) to implement an exceptions process for homeless applicants unable to meet the department’s established criteria.

 The measure, introduced by Senator Mary Camacho Torres, responds to a growing problem reported amongst Guam’s homeless population. According to data from the Guam Homeless Coalition’s most recent Point-in-Time Count Report, the number of responses citing “no identification as a barrier” doubled between 2017 and 2018.

 Recognizing that fees for acquiring or replacing personal identification documents are often prohibitive to homeless individuals, Torres’ measure would waive all fees associated with the exceptions process. The measure would further allow alternative verification as proof of residence from homeless service providers on Guam, provided the document is satisfactory to DRT.

Under Bill No. 126-35, the exception would apply to homeless adults as defined by the Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act and unaccompanied homeless youth under the age of 24.

Earlier this year, the Guam Homeless Coalition reported a substantial increase in the number of homeless families on Guam with the number of households increasing from 13.2 percent to 16 percent in one year. The number of homeless people not staying in a homeless shelter also increased from 727 in 2018 to 765 in 2019.

 Given that applicants must prove their identity to get a job, sign a lease, open a bank account, and access other basic but critical services, simplifying the id process is key to unlocking opportunity and curbing Guam’s homeless population.

 “For Guam’s most vulnerable, an ID card can be the difference between hope and despair,” said Torres. “By reducing red tape and offering alternative criteria, this simple change helps our homeless get identified, so they can get the help they need.”