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Two Atlanta Shelters Require Homeless To Show ID

December 9, 1988

ATLANTA (AP) _ Some of Atlanta’s homeless have found themselves in a Catch-22 because two shelters, including the city’s largest, won’t admit them without photo identification such as a driver’s license.

Drivers’ licenses carry home addresses - something homeless people don’t have.

Jay Coppock, director of the 350-bed Salvation Army shelter, estimated that between 20 and 25 people who lack identification are turned away each night.

The Salvation Army shelter and the 25-bed Gospel Light Rescue Mission admit homeless people with a state or international driver’s license, a passport, an employee photo ID or some state-issued identification.

Salvation Army officials said military discharge papers or a birth certificate with an embossed seal and a Social Security card are also acceptable.

Coppock said his shelter requires the photo identification to prevent homeless people from using multiple IDs to escape the $7 nightly fee for staying at the shelter more than one night. The first night is free.

He added that identification is crucial in finding housing and work.

″People come back time and time again and expect a handout,″ Coppock said. ″Our job is to get these people back into society and to make them contributing individuals.″

Gospel Light spokesman Roger Clark said homeless people without identification are allowed to eat, but cannot spend the night at the shelter.

Advocates for the homeless are outraged.

The practice ″doesn’t go on in any other city in America that I know of,″ said Mitch Snyder, a national advocate for the homeless in Washington, D.C. ″This is what goes on in South Africa. ... Why not demand that people have an apartment before they come into shelters?″

″It does no good to teach somebody a lesson if they’re going to be dead on the streets next week,″ said Keith Summa, project director of the National Coalition for the Homeless.

″If all the shelters went to this, we would be in a mess,″ said Jim Beaty, executive director of Atlanta’s Task Force for the Homeless. ″We assume places like the Salvation Army have good reasons for asking for ID, although we do not want anyone to remain cold and hungry because they don’t have a photo ID.″

Coppock said there are exceptions to the identification policy, which has been in effect for years. ″If someone has gotten mugged and has no ID or is dropped off by the police or referred through another agency and we can verify it, we will work with them,″ he said.

In freezing temperatures, he added, ″We pretty much let in as many people as we can.″

J.D. Coleman, spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety, said a state photo ID can be obtained for $4.50 plus a ″reasonable″ form of ID.

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