When Steve Walton’s home was in flames, so went every form of ID he had.
The man who later moved to Hall County found himself in a catch-22 familiar to the homeless community: You need a birth certificate for an ID, and you need to show ID for a birth certificate.
“Without ID, you’re kind of messed up,” said Walton, 60.
Changing a man’s life will cost around $130, said pastor Jerry Deyton, who created The Way day center in 2014.
Sixty dollars for the birth certificate, $25-30 or ID and another $40 for a good pair of work shoes.
“That will give them a chance to go from not having anything to a job to where they start taking care of themselves,” Deyton said.
Deyton recently received $2,500 in grant money to help people get their personal documentation.
Previously paying out of his own pocket, he helps people file for their birth certificates online and have them mailed to his address. Deyton then keeps the documents in a filing cabinet until the person can pick it up.
Deyton said his job is to direct people to where they need to be, but they need the initiative to see it to the end.
“I’ll help you get your basic needs — your birth certificate, your ID, your Social Security card — and then you’re on your own,” he said. “You can make this happen, because you’ve got all the paperwork.”
Doug Hanson, who is an intake volunteer counselor at the United Way’s Compass Center, has worked with Deyton on this effort.
“When I see these men come in without an ID, I find that it is a difficult road to identity within the community,” he said.
For a replacement Social Security card, the federal administration said it needs proof of citizenship — a birth certificate or passport — and proof of identity, which includes most forms of photo ID.
“Georgia law and the Department of Public Health regulations require that all requests for vital records include the signature and picture ID of the requestor and the proper fee,” according to the Georgia Department of Public Health.
For a Georgia state ID, you must prove “identity, residential address, full social security number, and U.S. citizenship or proof of lawful status” at the Department of Driver Services.
With help from Deyton, Leon Hines said it took him about two months to get his birth certificate so that he could go to the Social Security office. The 62-year-old man was previously using a jail ID which he no longer has.
“I’m American. I was born and raised in this country, and it takes all this to get your ID. It doesn’t make sense,” he said.
For an extra $10, Hanson will get two extra copies of the birth certificate, which he has stored as a backup. Those experiencing homeless often are in conditions where their stuff is stolen or rifled through by others.
“There’s a lot of violation of privacy in homeless camps,” Hanson said.
Housing services for the homeless such as the Salvation Army often want ID as a way to keep track of people, Walton said.
The act of getting around to get the documentation in itself is a headache for Hines, taking good amounts of time, energy and money.
“This town ain’t like Atlanta. You get on a train and you’re right there. This town you got to wait an hour to get a bus. You miss the bus in an hour, you have to wait another hour,” Hines said.
Dennis Waugh found himself sleeping in a Wal-Mart parking lot after 90 days in jail for what he claimed were bogus charges.
“If you don’t have an identity, you don’t have self-worth,” Waugh said, who said his wallet was stolen.
With an ID, he has been able to move in to the Salvation Army where he is trying to rebuild his home improvement business and reshape his life from square one.
“These hands are gifted,” Waugh said. “There’s nothing I can’t do.”
Deyton is about halfway through his grant money and has helped 10 people with birth certificates, including Walton.
Walton was able to pick up his birth certificate the week of Veterans Day and get a license the following week. Saying he was “relieved” to have the documentation needed, he said he was going to Ninth District Opportunity for housing assistance.