Homeless youth in Alabama will no longer have to pay fees to obtain a driver’s license thanks to a bill that passed during the legislative session.
Rep. Kyle South, R-Fayette, and Sen. Kirk Hatcher, D-Montgomery, carried the bill through the Legislature.
The lawmakers worked with nonprofit Schoolhouse Connection on the bill.
“Access to vital documents is a key impediment to self-sufficiency for youth experiencing homelessness,” said Rodd Monts, director of state policy for Schoolhouse Connection. “As a result of them being in unstable situations, they have difficulty navigating the systems necessary to get these documents, including physical movement from place to place. When you lack the stability of having a permanent address, not being easily able to identify yourself makes it difficult to engage with programs or employment. A lot of people don’t realize how difficult it is to get a birth certificate until you actually have to get one.”
The bill would require students to be enrolled in school, a GED course or job training program and be in good disciplinary standing
South said the state has identified 16,000 kids who would be eligible for the relief.
While this bill only applies to driver’s licenses, Monts and South said that they are looking into pursuing more legislation in the future to continue removing barriers to vital documents for homeless youth.
“We would very much like to get a sense for the level of support for expanding this,” Monts said. “We do believe there is recognition that all vital documents are important and providing access to them is worth pursuing. I think there is an appetite to provide greater access to birth certificates.”
South said the bill also has a workforce angle, clearing an obstacle that could help fill some of the entry level jobs that are struggling to find workers.
Monts said most homeless youth want to work and get themselves to a better situation.
“Many people want to work get themselves out of that situation,” Monts said. “Being without transportation is a huge barrier.”