IDNYC Opens Doors for the Homeless and Those Returning From Prison

When experiencing homelessness or navigating reentry to the community after prison, something as simple as having government-issued identification can ensure access to employment and/or financial assistance along with services critical to making independent living in the community possible. Yet, without a viable address or documents such as a birth certificate, obtaining an ID can be a significant challenge. For New York City residents, including our participants at CASES, IDNYC cards have made the reentry process a little easier.

CASES’ newSTART program in Central Harlem recently hosted one of several IDNYC Pop-Up Enrollment Centers, temporary sites stationed for 2-4 weeks in neighborhoods that may not have a permanent enrollment center nearby. The CASES-hosted Pop-Up helped 75 clients and staff to obtain an IDNYC, a government-issued identification card available to all New York City residents age 10 and older, regardless of immigration status. The card enables holders to:

  • Apply for a public library card—critical given that many libraries offer job search and other relevant support services
  • Avoid arrest by having a form of ID acceptable for summons issues or desk appearances
  • Access the High School Equivalency (HSE) exam in New York City
  • Open a bank account at select banks and credit unions
  • Access public museums
  • Obtain various discounts to entertainment, sporting events, and retailers

An IDNYC card is thus a gateway to accessing a range of available support services for CASES’ participants, many of whom may have never had an identification card or lack a current ID due to recent incarceration and/or behavioral health needs that can make navigating bureaucratic systems (e.g., to obtain an ID) challenging.

“Having official identification can be a contributing factor in the personal development of our clients,” says Reynaldo Lopez, newSTART Case Coordinator. “It affords them access to innumerable services previously denied for lack of an ID and can be a real impetus for change.”

Residents without permanent housing or survivors of domestic abuse can prove their residency status by obtaining a letter from a City agency, nonprofit organization, religious institution, hospital, or health clinic, stating that they live in New York City. The costs associated with replacing other legal documents such as state-issued identification cards, passports, and birth certificates can also pose a major barrier for individuals with limited resources. Lopez says this is another benefit of the IDNYC card: it’s free. Nevertheless, he says that the city-issued card is still different from a state-issued card, which he also recommends obtaining whenever possible.


To learn more about the IDNYC card or to be begin an application online, please visit the website here.