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"Community Access Card" program to serve as invaluable resource to local homeless community

COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) - Being homeless can be hard enough, but missing a form of ID can block even the most basic necessities.

"You gotta have it. you just gotta have it. These days you can't do nothing without it," exclaims one local member of the homeless community, Jimmy Person.

Muscogee County Jail Chaplain Neil Richardson and the staff at SafeHouse Ministries homeless shelter are spearheading the "Community Access Card" program.

"We've had a number of our clients that come back to us that are having a difficult time getting a state ID card or access to services," Chaplain Richardson explains to News 3's Mikhaela Singleton. "We've had a lady that just came up here today that couldn't get into a shelter because she has no ID."

Community Access Cards will be accepted by SafeHouse, United Way, and the majority of homeless and charity programs in the Chattahoochee Valley. Recipients will be able to easily access shelter, food, showers, and much needed assistance programs.

The cards will also scan into a shared database to help organize and coordinate information between charities.

 "That will blend into telling our donators what we need, when we need it, so everything in conjunction will run better," says SafeHouse Ministries Manager Charles Jeffries.

Jimmy Person tells News 3 he's heard the streets buzzing with excitement about the new program. He says it can be hard getting back on your feet without an ID.

"If you have a check, you can't go to the bank or cash a check, money order, or whatever. You basically have to have it if you wanna take care of some business," he explains.

Right now, the Community Access Card program is in the middle stages of development. Chaplain Richardson says everything down to the name of the program is being handled with extreme care.

 "We want this to be a point of pride for people. 'Access' -- now who doesn't want that? No one wants to be cast away or told they can't come here or go there," he says.

He and Jeffries add they are in talks with local government agencies and the new Georgia Governor's Office to have the cards recognized beyond Columbus charities. They say the end goal is to have the cards recognized as a first form of ID when getting a license with the DDS or to access public Columbus services like METRA.

Jeffries says he's moved to see the amount of community donations and support -- especially given he's experienced the struggle homelessness brings first hand.

"It is uplifting and it is grounding. It's a remembrance without dwelling of where I was and where I am now and where all these guys can go," he says.

Equipment to begin printing the Community Access Cards is on its way and set to arrive next week. Those interested in getting a card will be able to submit their information to SafeHouse Ministries to receive a personalized ID for free.


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