Having a state-issued photo ID and birth certificate can open a lot of doors for individuals experiencing homelessness. Without this vital documentation, Michiganders are unable to access services and housing. 

At MCAH, we advocated for programs that break down barriers to state IDs and Michigan birth certificates for individuals experiencing homelessness. Through the State ID Taskforce, we were able to pass legislation and secure funding for two programs that make accessing these documents much easier for homeless service providers and individuals experiencing literal homelessness.

ID Task Force

TThe ID Task Force launched in 2013 as an initiative of the Oakland County Health Division’s Homeless Healthcare Collaboration (HHC). At an early meeting of the HHC, securing a Michigan state ID and other vital documents was identified as an impediment to resolving homelessness.

A June 2014 meeting arranged by MSHDA introduced the task force to Secretary of State personnel responsible for the branch offices, Exceptions and ensuring compliance with the post 9/11 federal REAL ID laws. By 2015, a pilot program was launched in Oakland and Wayne counties, testing some alternate proof documents such as use of the HMIS ID, the shelter/agency verification, and use of the exceptions process at three select locations. Later, Macomb, Genesee, and Kalamazoo counties were added to the pilot. Wayne and Washtenaw counties developed their own municipal IDs with similar proof document requirements. Impediments included not only difficult to access documentation, but the cost of the ID and birth certificates, which most often were borne by the program participant.

Along with the Michigan Coalition Against Homelessness (MCAH), members of the task force made numerous trips to Lansing to educate lawmakers about the barriers to securing a state ID. In 2017, Senator Margaret O’Brien agreed to add the fee waiver for category 1 homeless to SB 404 which provided free state IDs for veterans. The bill was passed in the 2017 lame duck session and implemented in April 2018 by the Secretary of State. In addition to the fee waiver, this bill provided document modification (HMIS ID card, shelter verification letter) and access to SoS Exceptions unit to verify that the individual had all legally required supporting documents prior to going to the branch office.

In April 2014, after a meeting with the Oakland County Clerk, Lisa Brown, the committee worked with the Clerk to secure a board of commission resolution that granted individuals experiencing homelessness along with those without or with low income and born in Oakland County the ability to secure a fee waived birth certificate. This became a county model and eventually was adopted by Genesee, Kalamazoo and Calhoun counties.  In fall of 2019, Representative Tommy Brann sponsored MDHHS HB 4853 allowing individuals born in Michigan and who are experiencing homelessness to secure fee waived birth certificates through the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Central Registry, Bureau of Vital Records. The bill was signed into law and implemented in early 2020. The fee waiver and category 1 homeless proof documentation regulation was added to the Public Health Code Act 368 of 1978 in 2020.

Due to statewide interest in these vital document initiatives by human service agencies, the monthly meetings were held via conference call and the Oakland County ID Task Force became the Michigan ID Task Force in 2016.  The Task Force continues to meet regularly and is open to homeless service providers and advocates. Sign up below to receive notices for future meetings.

Michigan Birth Certificates

Individuals experiencing homelessness need a birth certificate to get a state ID, which is required to access services, medical care, shelter, employment, and more. In a 2017 survey of homeless service providers, birth certificates were identified as the most difficult document to obtain
for people experiencing homelessness.

One of the barriers individuals experiencing homelessness faced when securing their birth certificate was the differences in cost and processing time between those birth certificates held by MDHHS and local county clerk’s offices. MCAH and members of the State ID Task Force advocated for legislation to eliminate these differences and for funding to create a reimbursement program for local service providers. Information about how to access the reimbursement program through MDHHS are below.

Please direct any questions to MDHHS-Homeless@michigan.gov.