04/08/2019 Release from the Blue Ridge Group:

Residents of Charlottesville and Albemarle who lack a government ID card can now obtain a community-based ID, thanks to a new program sponsored by a coalition of area nonprofits. The new Charlottesville-Area Community ID program was launched on Saturday, March 30. Seventy-three area residents registered for their cards. Some applicants arrived at 5 a.m. to be sure they would be served.

Because these cards are not issued by the government, they can't be used to get a driver's license or to vote. However, the cards can be used for many other purposes: to access some social services and health services, enroll kids in school, sign up for water and other municipal services, and get a library card. And the ID can be a tool to help build trust between card holders and the police, and help them feel more welcomed by the larger community.

One person who signed up for the new card said, "Having an ID is important. It shows that I live here, that the community supports me. It makes me feel more secure."

The program was designed with input from the organizations that are asked to accept the card; that's what gives the card credibility in their eyes. Applicants must bring documents proving their identity and residence. This year, the cards are only given to Charlottesville and Albemarle residents. The program is based on a successful model used in over 20 other communities, from North and South Carolina to Indiana, Ohio, and Connecticut. To date, over 20,000 people have received these cards. Most of those benefiting are immigrants, youth, people returning from jail, and the homeless. At the March 30 launch, most applicants were immigrants, many from El Salvador and Mexico.

A number of local merchants have said that they'll welcome residents with the new ID cards, and will be placing posters in their shops and restaurants soon, indicating their support.

People can sign up for the cards the first Saturday of each month, starting May 4. The May and June sessions will be held at New Beginnings Church, 1130 E. Market St. The program is sponsored by Hinton Ave. United Methodist Church, New Beginnings Christian Community, and Welcoming Greater Charlottesville. For more information about the ID program: www.wgcville.org.