Under the mentorship of community members and partners, students from St. Lawrence College have developed a project called the Kingston ID Clinic (KIC), aimed at helping marginalized and vulnerable persons obtain their personal identification documents (ID) free of cost.
To access essential health and social services in Ontario, an individual requires proof of ID such as a birth certificate, health card, government-issued photo ID card, and/or driver’s licence. Without such IDs it can be difficult, even impossible, to obtain health care, housing, or banking services — particularly for those in vulnerable situations. A group of students in the Certificate Course on Project Management at St. Lawrence College examined and researched this problem as part of their last semester project. Their findings have led to the creation of KIC.
The KIC team includes Charles Oulton, Kateryna Levanenko, Ayatullah Alako, and Efemena Ogilo, all of whom have background expertise in international development, not-for-profit work, and community engagement. Combined with the skills learned from project management courses at St. Lawrence, the team is working on a pilot project phase of KIC, which will determine the need and financial requirements to undertake a more extensive implementation plan throughout Kingston.
Sophie Kiwala, former Member of the Provincial Parliament for Kingston and the Islands, is mentoring and working with the KIC team, as well as the team’s partner agency Kingston Community Health Centre (KCHC). They will provide the ID service through partnering with agencies that work with the vulnerable sector, such as Lunch by George, and Martha’s Table.
KCHC provided the initial funding of approximately $2,000 for the pilot project. This week, the team held popup clinics at Lunch by George and Martha’s Table to gather data on how many people could benefit from the program and assess the next steps. They also began filing government paperwork for approximately 10 clients seeking assistance.
In 2018, while she was MPP, Kiwala presented a Private Member’s Bill, Bill 26: the Fee Waivers Act, to make identity documents free for anyone who could not afford them. She then worked with Queen’s University Law Clinic Students on the bill, and it passed each phase in the legislative process unanimously. However, there was not enough time to pass it into law before the next provincial election.
But in a surprising twist of fate, just hours after Kiwala spoke about the need for the Kingston ID Clinic and the bill she’d previously tabled at Queen’s Park, the current Government of Ontario announced on Thursday, Apr. 7, 2022, that it will be eliminating birth certificate fees for vulnerable Ontarians.
The KIC stated that, while this is certainly a welcome step toward eliminating barriers to obtaining legal identification, the waiving of birth certificate fees only addresses one of those barriers. The group still has much work to do because of the sheer number of obstacles a lack of ID can present and the many possible reasons someone may not have access to their identification.
Kiwala explained that not having ID can result in various challenges: these include an inability to access financial resources like Ontario Works, the Ontario Disability Support Program, and the Ontario Guaranteed Annual Income System, as well as difficulty obtaining housing, opening bank accounts, accessing health care, fleeing domestic violence, picking up mail, securing employment, and more.
According to Oulton, the team’s research revealed that the lack of ID can stem from a number of circumstances. Those who live in unstable housing situations can easily have their Identification stolen or lost; IDs can also be withheld from victims of violence or crime by their abusers, making them further vulnerable through a lack of access to social services.
“We plan to address this by creating pop-up ID clinics around the greater Kingston area and providing assistance in applying for ID documents, free of cost,” said Oulton.
The KIC team estimates that if they are helping 40 people each month with birth certificate and photo ID applications (each costing $35), then $2,800 a month in funding is required to cover the costs. Currently the team involves only volunteers; however, if the needed funding comes through, the KIC staff will be employed part-time in order to carry out administrative and client service work.
“After our pop-up clinics this week, we realized that many people need this service. We want to be able to serve everyone. So the next step is to make sure that we can find the necessary funds to allocate towards this,” said Alako.
Levanenko shared that they are planning to create a club of volunteers who want to be involved in this project, especially students from the Social Service Worker program at SLC.
The KIC team also participated in The Ontario Project Management Competition, where they won third prize. The competition recognizes the overall project feasibility, plan and delivery, and how strongly the project’s objective and purpose align to one or more United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs).
Kiwala commended the student community in Kingston, saying, “I have not met one student who has not made an effort to integrate with the community and look for community projects to help better the community.” She hopes all of those students who have focused the efforts of their Project Management studies on the Kingston community will find fruitful employment within that community in the months ahead.
The Kingston ID Clinic Team
Oulton has a Bachelor of Arts with Honours in International Development Studies from Trent University. He completed a placement in a community development project in Ecuador, conducting ethnographic research and studying the local economy. He also worked as a Census Enumerator for Statistics Canada.
Levanenko has a Bachelor of Arts in Event Management from the Academy of Culture and Arts in Kyiv, Ukraine. She has experience working at non-profit organizations like the Foundation of Regional Initiatives, where she supported market and fundraising campaigns to spread awareness and develop 15 new partnerships. She has also worked at AIESEC (an international youth leadership organization) and worked as a Project Manager to recruit, interview and train 100 international volunteers to fill academic positions.
Alako has a Master’s in Chemical Engineering from the University of Birmingham and has worked as a Technical Product Analyst for erpSOFTapp Services in Lagos, Nigeria. She was also a chemical engineering trainee working to support the construction of a lab to carry out the safe operation of melting plastics in a pyrolysis machine.
Ogilo has a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and a Master’s of Science in Finance from Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas. She made the President’s list for a GPA of 4.0 and the Dean’s List in 3 semesters for maintaining a 3.8 GPA and higher as a full-time student.
For more information or to follow along as the newly-formed Kingston ID Clinic moves forward, visit their Facebook page here.