By Beth Malik
Associate Director of The Law Project and Youth Futures attorney
Twenty-eight homeless youths acquired needed legal identification documents in a one-day outreach program offered by our Law Project and Chase Bank’s legal department.
As part of the JPMorgan Chase Day of Service on July 23, CCH and Chase legal staffs hosted a Legal and Identification (ID) Clinic at the Center on Halsted in the Lakeview neighborhood. This comprehensive community center is dedicated to the health and well-being of Chicago’s LGBTQ community, including a youth program that helps young people experiencing housing instability.
Young people who become homeless often are forced to leave home without any ID documents, such as a birth certificate or Social Security card. Lack of identification presents a barrier to jobs and education. It is difficult to obtain a state ID card or driver’s license without these other forms of ID.
Prior to the afternoon clinic, the Law Project staff trained Chase volunteers on obtaining ID documents for youth and on the benefits available to support youth. During the clinic, 20 volunteer attorneys and legal professionals from Chase worked with eight CCH staff and interns.
Together, we assisted 28 young people in securing ID documents, such as birth certificates, Social Security cards, and homeless certification letters for state ID cards. Staff and volunteers were also available to enroll youth in public benefits and assist with other legal issues.
Near the close of the clinic, three attorneys obtained birth certificates from the Department of Vital Records, allowing us to deliver these to many of the young people before they left the clinic. Chase donated the cost of obtaining ID records, with Cook County charging $15 for a birth certificate.
The special Chase clinic complimented the work of the Law Project. CCH’s Youth Futures program runs a mobile legal aid clinic that serves 1,800 homeless youths a year through community outreach and legal aid. Our services include assisting youth in obtaining their IDs, with 148 clients in FY15. CCH covered the fees for these homeless youth, at a cost totaling $2,415.
Center on Halsted staff members assisted in notarizing and copying documents for the clinic.
“It’s very significant to provide these types of services for young people,” said Avi Bowie, the center’s Director of Youth Programs. “There are a lot of barriers that prevent unstably housed young people from accessing identification documents. We take IDs for granted. They mean so much to our young people – they can open doors to school and employment. We are grateful to Chase and to CCH for this opportunity.”
Chase volunteers found the experience meaningful and uplifting. Said Molly Carpenter, Chase’s General Counsel-Commercial Banking, “It was great partnering with the Law Project of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless and Center on Halsted to help young people secure identification documents and basic needs. Our volunteers had fun and the young people got a terrific benefit that will help them move forward.”
The youth themselves were appreciative of the help. Most of the youth were referred by service providers on the CCH Youth Committee, whose staffs tell us it can take them weeks to get a birth certificate. The youth told us they were happy to obtain their birth certificates in one day.