The program has helped 290 people at Camp Hope reestablish core identification, an essential first step to finding employment and housing.
Government-issued identification is vital to navigating most daily needs, yet is so ubiquitous many people take it for granted. The opposite is true for many and potentially most unsheltered people in Spokane. IDs are lost or stolen at such a rate that, this summer, a survey of Camp Hope residents conducted by Jewels Helping Hands found that 598 of 600 people surveyed lacked identification.
In order to address this need, Jewels Helping Hands has been administering an identification connection program in conjunction with the Washington Department of Licensing (DOL) and Department of Health (DOH). Over the last six weeks that program, which is supported by funding from the Washington Commerce Department, has issued 292 IDs and 106 birth certificates at Camp Hope and an additional 108 IDs at the Jewels Helping Hands day center.
The impact goes beyond having the proper paperwork, touching on something psychological. In an article for the Spokesman-Review, one resident told Colin Tiernan that having ID again made him feel welcome in the larger community:
[Camp resident Joseph] Vara said getting an ID makes him feel like he’s “part of society.”
“Not a cast-out anymore,” he said. “It’s like you belong again.”
Because of the success of the program at the encampment, the DOL and DOH offered to expand the identification services to the Trent Shelter (or Trent Resource and Assistance Center or just TRAC), which is operated by the Salvation Army. According to a Department of Licensing spokesperson, the operators of the center initially agreed to have the services on-site this week, then backed out. “TRAC did decline our offer to appear at their center,” said Nathan Olson. “You’ll need to contact the center for details about why.”
RANGE has contacted both the Salvation Army and the city of Spokane in an attempt to understand why the services aren’t being offered at the shelter. This article will be updated when and if they respond.
Since traveling to Houston to understand that city’s much-lauded approach to connecting unhoused people with housing, Mayor Woodward has referred to Trent as a “navigation center.” More than simply a shelter, the idea behind a navigation center is to systematically connect people with the services they need to move into permanent housing.
(For local reporting on the Houston model, check out this piece from Nate Sanford at The Inlander which also links to the Housing and Help series of documentaries on homelessness in Spokane. For a deeper dive check-out the New York Times long-read on the Houston model.)
If Trent is to be a navigation center, it’s hard to understand how a service fundamental to getting into housing isn’t being offered there. For hundreds of unhoused people in Spokane, ID services would be the logical first step in the navigation process.
According to Lydia Cicarelli, a peer navigator with Revive Counseling, who helps Camp Hope residents access services, work and housing, “It's hard to get housing referrals without IDs or social security cards.”
Beyond housing referrals, people need ID for everything from driving a car, to getting a job, to getting government assistance. Without it, the likelihood of accessing services and breaking out of homelessness is greatly diminished.
After our report from yesterday detailing serious shortcomings in providing basic services at TRAC, it’s possible the Salvation Army administration may be preoccupied with solving acute public health problems like spoiled food and overflowing toilets, but it’s difficult to know until either the city or the Salvation Army respond to our requests.
For Trent shelter to become an effective navigation center — both for those in city administration who see it as key to connecting people to housing and those living in the shelter who are trying to get housed — basic services like establishing identification should be foundational.
And, at least for now, that service is still being offered by the state. “As far as I know, the offer is still on the table,” Olson said.