MVD 'tele-office' helps unhoused people get IDs at Human Services Campus in Phoenix

By Kirsten Dorman
Published: Wednesday, August 9, 2023 - 4:55pm
Updated: Thursday, August 10, 2023 - 9:21am

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Arizona Department of Transportation’s Motor Vehicle Division
Arizona Department of Transportation’s Motor Vehicle Division
Arizona Department of Transportation’s Motor Vehicle Division will begin issuing the new design in mid-March 2023.

The Arizona Department of Transportation’s Motor Vehicle Division is partnering with the Homeless ID Project, a local nonprofit, to make it easier for people experiencing homelessness to get state-issued IDs.

A space inside the welcome center at the Human Services Campus near downtown Phoenix has been converted into a “Tele-MVD” office.

Rick Mitchell with the Homeless ID Project said clients receive help obtaining, paying for and even storing their new documents. Getting an Arizona ID is crucial for obtaining a job and housing or even voting.

“We’re doing 30 IDs a day right now,” Mitchell said, “and I expect that to ramp up.”

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, Mitchell said.

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.

Future plans for mobile office

With much of his work, Mitchel said he tries to put himself in clients’ shoes.

“Not only am I homeless but I can’t prove who I am,” he said about their experiences. “I can’t imagine being in a place more vulnerable than that. And in that vulnerable place, to seek out services from Homeless ID Project to try and get back on your feet is an incredible act of bravery.”

In the future, with the help of more funding, Mitchell said he hopes the program can evolve into a mobile operation that can help unhoused people at other sites in the Valley.

The Human Services Campus office is staffed by an MVD representative 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday to Friday.

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