SOURCE Alumni & Friends Newsletter
New Program Spotlight: The Identity Clinic
Written by The Identity Clinic Student Coordinators: Poonam Daryani, Joseph Shen, and Lauren Hosterman
Official, government-issued identification is a necessity often taken for granted. Without it, individuals can be barred from accessing employment, housing, and social services. Through decades of providing hands-on education and skills-based training to Baltimore communities, local non-profit Living Classrooms Foundation (LCF) realized that many of its members lacked such identification, and that this was a barrier to achieving educational and economic progress.
In 2016, LCF and JHU’s SOURCE were awarded a Johns Hopkins Idea Lab grant to develop a vital records concierge that would help address this need for identification. Not long after receiving the grant, The Identity Clinic was launched.
Every Friday morning, volunteer Clinic Navigators from Johns Hopkins University (including students, staff, and faculty) work with LCF’s team at the Adult Resource Center to run The Identity Clinic. Clinic Navigators meet one-on-one with local residents to navigate the complicated and cumbersome process of reclaiming identification. As the team is learning, the challenges faced by residents in securing identification are varied and substantial. Application fees, transportation costs, incarceration, lack of supporting documents (e.g. proof of residency), and obscure bureaucratic processes represent just a few of the factors restricting access. The Identity Clinic offers both technical and financial support in overcoming these hurdles, as members receive help with preparing their applications as well as vouchers and bus tokens to cover associated costs.
The demand for this service is evidenced by the high weekly turnouts. Since its inception in January 2017, The Identity Clinic has supported 313 residents in obtaining Maryland State IDs, birth certificates, and social security cards. Nicholas Berry, an East Baltimore resident, first heard about the initiative through his transitional home. Nicholas had not possessed any form of identification since 2012, when he was released from incarceration. In describing his experience at The Identity Clinic, Nicholas said it was “an experience of a lifetime to come to a place where people can give their time and sit down and talk to you, not just help you with your ID, but actually talk to you a little bit and get to know you.” After successfully obtaining his birth certificate and Maryland State ID through The Identity Clinic, Nicholas also applied for LCF’s forklift operator program, which would provide him with job training and employment opportunities. In this way, The Identity Clinic seeks not only to fulfill identification needs, but also to link members to a wide network of services and programs within LCF and across the city.
With additional funding and manpower, there is potential for the Clinic to expand to new locations and reach wider populations, such as the growing Hispanic population in East Baltimore. For SOURCE alumni who are interested, The Identity Clinic holds regular training sessions for new volunteers. For further information regarding the initiative or how to get involved, please contact the Identify Clinic Volunteer Coordinator, Lauren Hosterman at firstname.lastname@example.org.