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No ID, No Job; The Ministry Working to Give DC's Homeless A Second Chance


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WASHINGTON - In the heart of Washington DC, one of the nation's most prosperous cities, lies a secret.

While tourists see the Washington Monument and Lincoln memorial, what they may not see are as many as eight- thousand homeless men and women.

The good news; dozens of church's and social programs are working to change that statistic.

While some of the problems with chronic homelessness are obvious, a unique ministry in the heart of the district is tackling an issue most wouldn't give a second thought.

The ID Ministry

A driver's license or a state ID can open up a world of possibilities. But try losing one and same possibilities disappear. 

"Our whole idea of a system in this country is based on being able to be tracked and prove who you are. Even more so since 2001, with the 911 attacks. At this point, you can't really do anything if you don't have an ID," Pastor Ben Roberts of Foundry United Methodist told CBN News. 

That's where Foundry United Methodist and programs like it step in.

A team of volunteers are working to give the city's homeless a new id and a fresh start.

"The main things that we see that people are prevented from obtaining are employment, jobs, education and housing as well," explained Roberts.

"When you have a ministry that is focused on un-housed people, you want to get them into stable housing, affordable housing, but you can't do that unless they have ID that they can produce," he continued.

Roberts says there are a variety of reasons people end up without an ID.

"They probably got there because they were robbed, they were living on the street and somebody came and attacked them and took their belongings or they lost their items, or their items got soaking wet when they are out sleeping in the rain," he explained.

The Challenges of Obtaining ID

But obtaining new identification isn't always easy. 

"You come in and have nothing, no birth certificate, no social security card, no ID. We call that the trinity. When somebody comes with nothing, we have to start with a medical record. We have to start there because that is the only thing that helps people in terms of getting their social security card," he said.

From there, like a network of detectives, the team at Foundry track down the necessary information, make the phone calls, file the paperwork and even foot the bill that comes along with helping the clients prove their identity.

The process can take anywhere from 3 weeks to more than a year.

According to Roberts, besides a few recent grants, the ministry has been completely funded by members of the church.

Cleveland Thompson is proof the mission works. 

He says Foundry helped him get his ID, provided him with clothing and even gave him counseling for spiritual needs along the way.

"They told me as they was helping me,' you need anything, here's my card," he recalled.

"'Give me a call. Stuff like that. Come by anytime. Come to our church service.' That helped out too. At that time, my frame of mind was a little lonely, "said Thompson.

Thompson said now he has a new car, an apartment and a job working for the government.

And he's spreading the message about the program, too.

"I just brought my cousin down. I didn't need anything today. I was telling him about it. This is his first time going through this. I was telling him, this is the place to go whenever you need something," said Thompson. 

"Now you're helping other people?" asked CBN News.

"I'm helping other people. You're supposed to," he replied.  

Roberts says that is exactly the point of the ministry, to spread love to their neighbors, both seen and unseen.



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About The Author

Amber C.

Amber Strong joined the CBN News team in Washington, D.C., in 2014 as a producer and field producer. Currently, she works as a correspondent, producer, and backup anchor for "The Brody File." Her beat includes national politics and The White House. And while she loves her current backyard of Washington, D.C., she’s a Hoosier girl at heart. Amber lives and breathes all things entertainment and politics and has had the privilege of interviewing some of the biggest names in both industries, including late night host Jimmy Fallon and presidential contender Rick Santorum. However, her true love is