February 24, 2011
Legislation filed by Senator Kirk Watson and Representative Elliott Naishtat would improve economic self-sufficiency among some of the most disenfranchised Texans by providing homeless individuals with a basic necessity for gainful employment – a valid Texas photo ID.
The measure, filed as Senate Bill 876 and House Bill 1675, is known as the Pathways to Employment Act. It supports what should be a bipartisan effort to promote economic stability for more Texans, providing a one-time fee waiver for homeless men and women who seek a photo identification card in Texas. Senator Watson and Representative Naishtat discussed the legislation today at Caritas of Austin, a support center for the homeless that provides about 20,000 homeless, documented refugees and others in Travis County with a range of services including food, housing, education and employment services.
“It’s fitting that we’re discussing this bill at Caritas,” Senator Watson said. “This legislation will help a lot of folks that Caritas helps and make a real difference in many lives.”
Both SB 876 and HB 1675 instruct the Texas Department of Public Safety to waive the $16 fee associated with obtaining a Texas photo identification card if applicants verify their homeless status with an affidavit.
“It is not uncommon for individuals facing homelessness to lose or leave behind many of their belongings, including personal identification,” Rep. Naishtat said. “This legislation is crucial because without an ID, people do not have access to services, access to permanent housing, or access to employment opportunities. This proposal will help to lift individuals out of the cycle of homelessness.”
Additionally, SB 876 and HB 1675 specify that no more than 10,000 homeless people may receive an exemption per biennium. “This is a small price to support the economic recovery of both individuals and communities throughout our state.”
According to the Texas Homeless Network over 265,000 individuals in Texas are homeless each year.