California Offers Free ID to Homeless People

by on July 2, 2015 · 10 comments

in California, Civil Rights, Culture, Economy, Environment, History, Homelessness

homeless family By Christine Schanes

As of July 1st, a homeless person, child or youth born in the State of California can get a free certified birth certificate from the county of their birth. And as of January 1, 2016, a homeless person, child or youth will be able to get a free new or replacement California photo identification card from the Department of Motor Vehicles.

These public records fee waivers were provided during the 2013-14 California legislative session by the passage of Assembly Bill 1733 whose primary author was former Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva and whose joint authors were Speaker of the Assembly Toni G. Atkins and Assemblymember Brian Maienschein.

homeless w signThe authors of AB1733 describe its significance as follows:

“AB1733 is an important step to stability [for homeless people]. Being able to get a birth certificate, and then an ID are some of the first steps to accessing services. Many of the non-profits simply do not have $25.00 or any cash to give out to begin this process. Without an ID, those experiencing homelessness are stuck.” – former Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva

“Sometimes small changes can make a big difference. I was pleased to be a joint author for legislation that will waive the fee for homeless persons to obtain state identification. This is a simple, common sense solution that removes a significant barrier for people who are homeless. Having ID should result in increased benefits, and at the very least, it removes one of the many stresses that accompany homelessness.” – Speaker of the Assembly Toni G. Atkins

“AB 1733 breaks down barriers for a person experiencing homelessness to be able to receive much needed identification documentation that will in turn allow access to services. This will reduce long-term reliance on emergency services and move people into programs that provide a permanent solution to homelessness.” – Assemblymember Brian Maienschein

Prior to the passage of AB1733, homeless people had to pay the standard $25 fee for a certified birth certificate. Through AB1733, Section 103577 was added to the Health and Safety Code, whereby this fee is waived.

However, the homeless person, child or youth, as defined by the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. Section. 11301, et seq.) will now have to provide a completed affidavit form from the State of California, attesting to their homeless status, to be completed by a “homeless services provider” which include:

“(A) A governmental or nonprofit agency receiving federal, state, or county or municipal funding to provide services to a “homeless person” or “homeless child or youth,” or that is otherwise sanctioned to provide those services by a local homeless continuum of care organization.
(B) An attorney licensed to practice law in this state.
(C) A local educational agency liaison for homeless children and youth designated as such pursuant to Section 11432(g)(1)(J)(ii) of Title 42 of the United States Code, or a school social worker.
(D) A human services provider or public social services provider funded by the State of California to provide homeless children or youth services, health services, mental or behavioral health services, substance use disorder services, or public assistance or employment services.
(E) A law enforcement officer designated as a liaison to the homeless population by a local police department or sheriff’s department within the state.” Health and Safety Code 1733, (d) (3) (A-E)

homelessPlease note this fee waiver applies only to an application for a certified birth certificate for a homeless person, child or youth, made to any of the 58 counties recorder’s officers or any branch thereof in California. The $25 fee will continue to be required of the homeless person, child or youth if the application is made to State of California Department of Public Health – Vital Records.

Further, there is no standard county recorder application form for the 58 counties. Therefore, depending upon the unique requirements of the county recorder’s office in question, there may be additional documents that may have a financial impact upon the application. For example, with every mailed-in application, the County of Los Angeles requires a Certificate of Identity/Sworn Statement – Birth & Death, which must be notarized at the cost of $10 a signature.

Finally, in order to take advantage of the fee waiver, the homeless person, child or youth will have to know the county of their birth. Unfortunately, they may not know this information and be unable to take advantage of this fee waiver.

With regard to obtaining a California Department of Motor Vehicles-issued photo identification card, the standard fee is $28 for an original or duplicate ID card. However, currently certain agencies, approved by DMV, may issue the “Verification for Reduced Fee Identification Card” form through which a homeless person, child or youth need only pay $8 for their ID card.

However, AB 1733 amends Vehicle Code 14902 such that as of January 1, 2016, the standard $28 fee and the $8 fee through the verification form will be waived for a homeless person, child or youth. I have been informed that the regulations for implementation of this waiver are currently being created.

On behalf of homeless people and service providers, I sincerely thank John J. Bauters, Policy Director for Housing California, former Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva, Speaker of the Assembly Toni G. Atkins, Assemblymember Brian Maienschein and the California Legislature for their efforts to help homeless people by passing AB1733.

I look forward to your comments.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

RB July 2, 2015 at 2:03 pm

I think providing free IDs to the homeless is a great idea,
but unfortunately I am not sure all of the homeless want IDs.


Christine July 3, 2015 at 8:07 am

Hi RB, Thanks for your comment. I agree with you that providing free IDs to homeless people is a good idea.
About whether all homeless people really want them… While I don’t know every homeless people, after 20+ years, I’ve met many homeless people, probably thousands throughout the State of California and elsewhere.
I do know sometimes a person can feel so much without hope that the person cannot figure out exactly what they want. In that state, things are often a jumble.
Add to the psychological feeling of being without hope, the physical reaction of possible mental confusion caused by an inadequate diet due to lack of food and possible lack from sleep due to inconsistent resting habitats, a person can get quite off their game. They might even say they don’t mind being homeless or they don’t want ID.
The truth is without ID, a person will never get out of homelessness. The only thing I know you can get without ID is food stamps for 1 month and then you have have to produce ID for that second month.
I hope you will respond. I’d like to continue this conversation with you.
Happy Fourth of July!


RB July 3, 2015 at 9:48 am

Some percentage of the homeless have other problems besides the need of shelter.
There are mental problems , family problems and legal problems, they are avoiding. Having no ID lets them avoid the grid and their past. My own brother rarely traveled with an ID and often used the lack of identity to avoid his past while creating a fictional present. He routinely gave false identities, usually that of some high school friends.

I would think it might be important for the homeless to actually receive a benefit at the time they get the card, to link the card with a good outcome.


Christine July 3, 2015 at 1:36 pm

Thank you for your comment.

I am impressed with how insightful your comment is and how much compassion you have.

Rather than getting angry with someone for not quite being like everyone else, you understand that there are mental problems and other issues that can affect a person.

Believe me when I say that not many people have your understanding. I appreciate the time you have taken to reflect and understand. Thank you.

I really like your idea of a person getting a benefit when they get their ID as an incentive to get an ID. I think the system is reversed right now and that you have the right idea – make everything positive to encourage participation in programs, even society.

Since you’ve obviously thought about this, I’m wondering what benefit you might suggest for a person to receive, especially a homeless person to receive, upon getting their ID?



Karen July 7, 2015 at 1:40 pm

I am so glad this is happening as i have worked directly with the homeless and currently work with homeless vets. i have given many 8 dollar ID vouchers and soon they will be free … it would be really nice if this can be across the US as I have learned how to obtain BC’s in many states. and one other state i think Alabama has a free to homeless waver. don’t quote me though. Good Job!!! I am saving and posting this article for my clients.


Christine Schanes Christine Schanes July 7, 2015 at 7:08 pm


Thanks for your comment and kind words. And thank you for all you do for homeless people and homeless vets, in particular!

Where do you currently work? Are you the person chiefly responsible for getting homeless people ID?

Thanks also for the possible tip about Alabama giving free ID to homeless people. I’m going to look into that because I would like to write an article about ID nationwide.

I also interested in any other information you may have about IDs nationally.

Are you aware of the individual state listing published by the Center for Disease Control? If you’re not aware of it, you can google it and get the information about all 50 states immediately. We print out the list annually and use it as our chief reference text for phone numbers and website addresses.

In San Diego, we run the Center for Justice and Social Compassion ID Clinic each year at Project Homeless Connect. In Los Angeles, we run the E-Z I.D. Clinic every Saturday in the Santa Monica Public Library Pico Branch.

At some point, it would be great for all of us doing ID for homeless people to get together just to talk about common issues and solutions to challenges.

Please keep in touch,


Judy March 30, 2016 at 12:33 pm

Hi I’m Judy n I’m homeless I had my wallet with my ID Social n Birth Certificate in it I tried asking for help but no one wanted to help me I mean don’t get me wrong I do shower n cook my meals at a friends house n she lets me use her address looking for work was gonna get a job but I don’t have a ID social or birth certificate I have no money to get them what can I do in my situation


Christine Schanes Christine Schanes March 31, 2016 at 8:34 pm

Hi Judy, thanks for your comment. Suggestions
– apply for food stamps, you can get 1 month at least without ID
– if you were born in California, you can get your certified birth certificate for free (notarization is required if outside of San Diego County)
-if you’ve had a California DMV ID or license before, you can get a DL933 No Fee form from a service provider and take it to DMV where you can get a free ID with just your thumbprint. If you haven’t had a California DMV ID or license before, bring your certified birth certificate with the DL 933 and you can get your DMV ID.
-regarding a Social Security (SS) card – often knowing your SS number is sufficient. However, with photo ID from DMV, you can get another SS card. Go to for further information about the kinds of documents they will accept to get your SS card.
Hope this is helpful!
Best Wishes to you, Christine


Winifred Ochoa April 11, 2016 at 12:59 pm

dear christine, i read your reply to Judy on March 31 because my situation is very siimilar, the only thing different is i don’t have an address to apply for food stamps. can i still apply
thank you Winifred Ochoa of San Diego County


Christine Schanes Christine April 12, 2016 at 8:23 pm

Hi Winifred, Question: have you applied for general relief? If so they will give you a mailing address. Once you apply for food stamps , you can get 1 month without ID. Maybe your GR address will work for them – just ask them.
But before going to get any benefits see if you can get a mailing address: suggestions include – going to your local church or homeless service provider and ask to be able to use their address for your mail. That way when you go for GR or food stamps or any benefit you can bring your address.
I don’t know where you are living so my answer is kind of general but it should work for most U.S. places.
Please keep in touch! Best to you, Christine


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