KEYSER, W.Va. – House Committee on Government Organization Chairman Gary Howell, R-Mineral, today announced he plans in the coming legislative session to reintroduce a bill that would help homeless individuals obtain the identification documents they need to secure employment or apply for public benefits.
Last year, Chairman Howell introduced House Bill 2215, which would have required the Division of Motor Vehicles to provide certain identification documents at no cost to homeless individuals living at shelters within the state. Those documents include a photo ID card, replacement driver’s license or birth certificate.
The bill did not pass the Legislature last year, but Howell said he would like to see it considered again. He made the announcement ahead of the Dec. 21 observance of Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day, a national campaign to remember those who have died homeless and raise awareness of their plight.
“This bill is designed to help homeless people get the documents they need to begin to improve their lives,” Chairman Howell said. “Too many times, homeless people are caught in a trap. They can’t get a job or apply for assistance because they don’t have an ID, and they can’t get an ID because they don’t have a permanent home.”
The bill recognizes that homeless individuals often lose or have their personal identifying documents stolen from them. Since personal identification documents are necessary for obtaining employment or certain public benefits, but the fees for acquiring replacement documents are unaffordable for homeless individuals, the bill would help them obtain these documents at no cost.
Howell said removing the barriers that prevent homeless from getting an ID or birth certificate can help them achieve greater financial stability and a permanent home.
“Government should not stand in the way of people who are trying to pick themselves up,” Chairman Howell said. “Homelessness is a problem that people in cities across the country are trying to correct, and this bill will give those who are homeless an essential tool to get their lives back on track.”
The next session of the West Virginia Legislature begins Jan. 10.