Veterans and homeless without IDs need help

It was 6:30 a.m. on a brisk November day, and the line outside the Orlando Union Rescue Mission was about 400 people deep.

Only 250 of them would get help this day. But, for even that chance, they had begun lining up at midnight.

What these people wanted wasn't shelter, money or even food.

Just their identity — official proof that they exist.

You probably don't think much about the fact that you have a drivers license in your wallet or purse.

But imagine for a moment that you didn't.

Imagine you were a homeless veteran who had been robbed, not only of your ID, but of any other proof that you are who you say.

Imagine you are a battered spouse whose manipulative husband stole all of your personal documents to keep you from leaving.

You have no money or job. But, more important, you don't have the resources to start over.

In the eyes of the world, you don't exist.

The situation is heartbreakingly common.

The good news is that there are hundreds of people in our community working to help their fellows. Most notably, a group of downtown churches spawned an effort, called IDignity, dedicated solely to this cause.

The group has helped thousands of Central Floridians get their identity back.

But last year, the Florida Legislature made IDignity's job much harder — 150 percent harder, to be precise.

Actually, they made ID cards more costly for everyone when they were struggling to balance their budget.

Instead of closing existing tax loopholes for special interests, they jacked up the cost of obtaining an ID.

Yacht-buyers got a new tax break — and you saw the cost of replacement licenses jump from $10 to $25. New licenses went from $20 to $48.

Overnight, IDignity's costs for helping the destitute more than doubled.

And that's where the state needs to make things right.

I've long argued that the state shouldn't have balanced its budget on the backs of rank-and-file Floridians in the first place. But these jacked-up costs are a particular hardship on the destitute and the people who help them.

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