If you go anywhere these days without a wallet in regard to traveling, you should expect to accomplish absolutely nothing. Inside your wallet are an ID card, money, and more cards identifying you. I came to this city with nothing, but confidence that I would get whatever I needed to survive. I came broke, without any identification, and no personal contacts of assistance from anyone. To make matters worse, I knew I would be homeless until I got something going. The Madison Police Department was my first obstacle I encountered since I mistakenly fell asleep on steps with a ‘No Trespassing’ sign over my head. The officer waived the ticket, gave me a warning, and didn’t hesitate to mention to me that he didn’t like the idea of me being here. He also told me to obtain possession of an ID as soon as possible. That day was June 2nd, the beginning of my homeless nightmare here in Madison.
Being homeless didn’t stop me from trying out my options toward getting the money I needed for what I wanted in this city. All I wanted was a one bedroom apartment and a job making enough money to pay for it. Plain and simple – at least that’s what I thought. Being on the streets was nothing new to me. Working odd jobs for temporary agencies is normal in most cities in this great country of ours. I even considered the donation of blood plasma as a source of income saving what little I make for an apartment. The big surprise came when I found out that these places, and mostly all places of business, require some form of identification for any transaction going on. Homeless with no source of income sent me off and running to all the many organizations that this city had to offer that dealt with my predicament. I first went to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to find out that you need in your possession and old ID (unexpired, Government issued, within the last 2 years) to get a trade-in on a Wisconsin ID plus the cost of ID purchase. I had no other form of ID since a fire in my Washington, D.C. apartment since 1983 left me without any proof of my existence. Since 1983, I worked only blocks from my apartment never needed or used my ID card for really over 20 years. So imagine my surprise when told how close to impossible it would be to prove my identity. At the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WDOT), they told me that a social security card would help start me on my ID journey. While waiting for a birth certificate ordered from the city of your birth, I went to the Social Security Office on Odana Road and something interested occurred: you need an ID to get a social security card. And to make matters worse, along with the $23.00 money order, the application fee for the birth certificate you’re ordering, a photo ID is also required. Does that make sense? In order to get a Wisconsin ID you need an ID to get it. If you have no ID one must apply for and obtain a birth certificate and social security card to get the Wisconsin ID card. But remember…you need an ID to get a birth certificate and an ID to get a social security card! I then decided to give up and try later.
It was later that someone told me that with the upcoming November election approaching, I should be able to get a free voting ID, but they failed to mention what was again told to me… I needed an ID to get an ID. I started reaching out to those services affordable to a person in my position. The homeless shelter for a place to rest my head at night, a shower to refresh my mind and a body in the morning as I continued to provide for myself. I found churches like Bethel, First United, Holy Redeemer for food, clothing, spiritual support and more. Organizations like Luke House, Madison Tenant Resources Center, Porchlight, and Community Action Coalition for whatever assistance I may qualify for. These people, along with word-of-mouth from other homeless individuals kept me fed, clothed, bathed and informed of many ways of survival during my struggle to obtain identity. I had my first try through Porchlight’s Hasan Mohr. His advice was well worth the try. Through the local Madison Library’s reference desk, we obtained the Washington, D.C. birth certificate form online copying it. The application filled out, the $23.00 money order and the self-stamped envelope enclosed were sent off. The mail was returned to us with no birth certificate and no explanation of what I did wrong. I was hoping they would send me the birth certificate without a photo ID that they required on their application form. No luck! I then again gave up with the intention to try again later.
I found out about a housing opportunity by the way of the Madison Tenant Resource Center, which is an organization located within the Social Justice Building. They’re known for their work regarding housing tenant/landlord disputes. Because of the lack of affordable housing, Occupy Madison is assisted by them. I joined the Occupied Camp at the time on their move near East Washington Avenue site. I was given a tent. I benefitted from the camaraderie that existed there, gaining legal resources from the minds of Brenda Konkel, Bruce and Allen Barkoff. These people went out of their way for me even though I spent only a few days at this camp. The Tenney-Lapham Neighborhood Association represented themselves very well at this campsite. Mike O’Callaghan Ryanjoy was one. He helped me with a rough draft copy of assistance from organizations that know what I term as legalities. My predicament required a loophole in the very system that seems to shut me out from proving my identity. A proxy, someone with power of authority in this situation, was needed to represent me. Mike Ryanjoy’s paperwork, in partnership with Allen Barkoff and Brenda Konkel’s persistence in solving my problem reached an ending. Allen got through to the Department of Vital Records (birth certificate place) in Washington, D.C. and was told to get someone that’s involved in a non-profit status organization to represent me. Brenda Konkel was that person who would then photocopy her ID, and sent it out with the $23.00 purchase price of the birth certificate application, the self-addressed, and a notarized typed statement of my predicament. My copy of my birth certificate is now in my possession thanks to everyone for caring.
Thank you for you help!