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LGBTQ youth in Massachusetts comprise about one in ten young people, yet represent more than one in five youths currently experiencing homelessness. This staggering disparity - which is driven by family rejection and young people “falling through the cracks” of state services - reinforces why the Massachusetts Commission on LGBTQ Youth has made homelessness one of its priority issue areas.
To that effect, the Commission was pleased to testify on November 13 before the Joint Committee on Transportation on improving state ID access for youth experiencing homelessness. The issue has come up recently with respect to House Bill 2737 and Senate Bill 1906, “An Act to provide identification to homeless youth and families.” Detailed testimony was also submitted in writing.
Corey Prachniak-Rincón, the Commission’s director, explained that LGBTQ youth were both more likely to experience homelessness and more likely to need the type of services that require an ID to access. That is because LGBTQ youth face wide-ranging health and safety disparities in the Commonwealth, such as violence, bullying in schools, and sexual assault. “These are all situations where we want youth to be able to immediately seek and access services,” Prachniak-Rincón was quoted as saying, “without the fear that they may get rejected by the institutions that they already may see as having failed them.”
Indeed, the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless has found that a lack of ID can hinder access to many services and opportunities, including finding a job, enrolling in educational programs, opening a bank account, and entering government buildings. It also puts individuals at risk of encountering problems with law enforcement. The most recent Youth Count data showed that more than one in ten people experiencing homelessness had not been able to get the help they needed specifically because they do not have the proper ID.
Written testimony submitted to the Committee on Transportation explained why improving access to state ID cards may be key to allowing access to services for the most vulnerable residents of the Commonwealth - disparities that have persisted even though LGBTQ people have otherwise made gains in civil rights and recognition. The issue of ID cards is particularly relevant now because, as the Coalition for the Homeless has explained, the state has made changes in compliance with the federal REAL ID act that makes it more difficult for people (especially low-income individuals) to acquire identification.
The Joint Committee on Transportation is currently considering whether to report on the bill favorably and move it forward towards a full vote in the State House.