Philly's Homeless Struggle to Get IDs Under the New Voter Law | News | News and Opinion | Philadelphia Weekly
More than 100 people stand in one of two lines across the street from Family Court at 19th and Vine streets. Most of them are homeless. Some of them are there to receive a free meal from the few volunteers set up near the courthouse. On the other side of the lawn, toward the Ben Franklin Parkway, there’s a group congregated around a man wearing a red Philadelphia Kixx T-shirt, holding a clipboard. He’s Adam Bruckner, and he’s been coming here with the goal of getting the homeless IDs for the past 10 years.
“Years ago, I used to ask homeless guys, ‘Why don’t you get a job?’” says Bruckner, after he signs a $13.50 check and hands it to a tall, bearded man who just proved his identity by showing two prescription drug bottles bearing his name. “And they said, ‘It’s because we can’t get IDs.’”
So Bruckner, 37, decided to help. When he started out, he was just a young guy with a clipboard who gave money out of his own pocket. But within weeks, he said, word spread that there was someone in Philadelphia looking to get poor and homeless people identification so they could get jobs, cash checks and vote. Hundreds of people began coming to him every Monday at the Vine Street location. Today, the Parkway meet-up is a charitable nonprofit called Philly Restart operating with $60,000—most of which is spent in the form of checks written for $13.50, the amount required to get a state ID from PennDOT.
“Now, many of the shelters and halfway houses in the city will refer their clients straight here,” he says, adding that he sees hundreds of people each week, and there is no universal story of the types of people who need IDs.