Access to Health Cards for the Homeless

The Access program helps people obtain a Health Card, so they can receive critical medical and social services. The team operates nine ID clinics each month in drop-in centres across Toronto. Please contact our ID Team for specific clinic times & locations:  (416) 921-8668.

One of the biggest challenges in the homeless community is getting and keeping identification documents. Theft is common in the shelter system and on the street. And issues of mental health or addiction cloud personal memory. Many clients come to an ID clinic with no identification at all.

Street Health ID Safe- Detective Work Pays Off

Detective work is often required to track down certain pieces of ID. Along with thefts, some people are estranged from their families or grew up in child protection services. All this makes finding original documents even harder.

When people have no ID, the team helps them to apply for a birth certificate or proof of legal status in Canada. Usually within four to eight weeks, the documents are mailed to Street Health and distributed through our on-site mail service. With this necessary document in hand, the team can obtain other forms of ID for a client. These include a Health Card and Social Insurance Card.

Opening Doors to Vital Services

ID Access myra with client

The Access team plays a unique roll in people’s lives. There is a tremendous feeling of accomplishment when a set of complicated circumstances is resolved and the client is finally handed their ID.

"I once had a 75 year old client who had never had a birth certificate in his life”, recalls Access team member, Lennox. "He grew up in a group home in Nova Scotia and left for Ontario at an early age. After more than two years of looking into his past, including contacting the Children’s Aid Society in Nova Scotia, we located his birth records. To everyone’s surprise the client was actually five years older than he thought, and he had been spelling his last name incorrectly his whole life! We were finally able to begin the process of applying for his ID and we gave him back some of his personal history”.

Another woman arrived at an ID clinic a week after immigrating from Turkey with Landed Immigrant status. She was six months pregnant, had very little money, and was in need of emergency medical care. Through much perseverance, and with the help of a local MPP, the team was able to secure an approved Health Card for their client. In a thank you note, the woman wrote:
"It is really hard to find the proper words to thank you, you may remember how hopeless and desperate I was the day I met you. I had never thought that would be my lucky day. Because of you, you gave me hope and did the impossible to help me and my baby!”

The Access to Health Cards program is carried out in partnership with the All Saints Church Drop In, Regent Park Community Health Centre, Queen West Community Health Centre, and Parkdale Community Health Centre. It is funded by the Toronto Central Local Health Integrated Network.