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MVD 'tele-office' issued hundreds of IDs to unhoused people in first month

By Katherine Davis-Young, Kirsten Dorman
Published: Thursday, September 21, 2023 - 3:31pm
Updated: Friday, September 22, 2023 - 7:37am

homeless id project
Arizona Department of Transportation
The MVD office on the Human Services Campus helps people experiencing homelessness get state identification.

The Arizona Department of Transportation's Motor Vehicle Division says it has helped hundreds of people get state IDs in the first month since it opened a new office to serve homeless populations.

State identification is important for employment, housing and other services, but many people experiencing homelessness don’t have it. The MVD partnered with the nonprofit Homeless ID Project last month to launch a “Tele-MVD” office on the Human Services Campus downtown.

The goal was to save unhoused clients a long trip to a brick-and-mortar MVD. The agency reports the first month has been a success, with 780 IDs issued.

Replacements and new IDs

Whether a client has already had a state-issued ID in Arizona determines a lot about what their experience in the program will look like, said Rick Mitchell with the Homeless ID Project.

If they’ve had one before, a replacement is relatively easy to issue.

“Two weeks ago, we would have given that individual a voucher to cover the cost of an ID and a bus pass,” Mitchell said. “Now, we don’t even have to give them a voucher because we walk them back to the office where an [MVD representative] is sitting.”

Minutes later, he said, they’re registered and only have to wait for about a week to receive their new ID. But “you can’t get an ID without an ID,” Mitchell said, which means some cases have to begin with securing a birth certificate.

“That’s probably 25 or 30% of the cases,” Mitchell said.

Each case is different, meaning wait times can range from about a week to nine months or even a year. Once clients finally receive their IDs, Mitchell said there are safeguards against losing or having them stolen.

“We also give people what we call a ‘safe wallet,’” he said. “It’s basically a lanyard.”

The safe wallets are typically kept under your shirt, Mitchell said, so that it’s more likely to stay with you if other bags or belongings are stolen.

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