I had the most infuriating encounter at the Department of Public Services yesterday. Infuriating is the right word. I was there helping one of our friends at Joe’s Addiction to get his ID renewed. His old one was about to expire. When we approached the counter, he explained that he had been to a tag agency, but they told him he is required to go to DPS to renew his. She looked at his ID, and then loudly declared, “Yes. If you’re on the sex offender registry, you are required to come here.” She made sure that the entire room heard her.
She then proceeded to look up the address that he had written on the form. It was the address that was on his current ID, and the one he has used for several years. She said, “This address is not on the registry.” He explained to her that he is homeless and that the address he gives to the Registration Office is an intersection. He knew you can’t put an intersection as your address on an ID card. She told him, “I can’t give you an ID if you are homeless. You must have a residence to get an ID.”
I jumped in. I said, “Ma’am, I know that isn’t true, because I am a pastor and I have a lot of people who are experiencing homelessness in my care. Most of them have an ID. I have helped many of them get their ID.”
She pursed her lips and said, “Well, whoever is giving them ID’s is doing it illegally, because homeless people are not ‘residents’ of the State of Oklahoma. You must have a residence to be a ‘resident’” She used finger air quotes each time she said, “resident.”
I said, “Ma’am, there is no possible way that what you are telling me is true. I have been helping homeless people (including sex offenders) get ID’s for many years, and I have never run into this problem.”
Again she said, “A person must be a legal ‘resident’ of the State of Oklahoma, in order to get a State ID.” Again she used finger air quotes to emphasize “resident.”
Standing next to me, my friend became more and more agitated. He started huffing and puffing and barking his complaints to the woman. Explaining that he has used this address for several years, that his previous ID card is still valid with that address, that he can most often be found at this address, etc. She kept saying the same thing again and again. He was obviously and expressively angry with her.
I put my hand on his arm and told him to calm down, that we’d figure this out. (I was doing the best I could to keep my own anger under control.) I said, “Ma’am, just think about this for a moment. How can a homeless person ever become unhomeless, if they can’t get an ID? They can’t get a job. They can’t get a house. They can’t even get into the homeless shelter. In fact, if a policeman stops them and asks to see their ID, they can even be arrested if they don’t have one. (Although this should not be the case, it has happened to our people many times.)
She listened to my comments and then said, “I’m looking at the law right here on my computer screen. Only ‘residents’ of Oklahoma can obtain an Oklahoma State ID.” When she did her finger air quotes again, I took a deep breath and said, “Then we need to see a supervisor.” She said, “You’ll have to take a number.”
We did. Then we sat watching person after person who had come in after we did hear their number called and go to another room. While we waited, we formed a new game plan. John went online for me and looked up the actual address of the location of my friend’s tent. At one point, as we sat watching the TV on the wall, my friend said, “I can feel that energy coming off of you. You told me to calm down. I think you’re the one who needs to calm down.” We laughed. We sat there for an hour, before finally our number came up on the screen.
When we sat down with the supervisor, we explained that the address he had first given was not the actual place where he lives, and that the woman at the front counter had been concerned about that, but that we were now able to give the actual address of where he “resides.” (I did not use finger quotations.) My friend explained that he is homeless, but that the address we were now giving is the location of his tent.
The supervisor did not say much. She sat at her computer typing and typing and typing for about five minutes. I did the best I could to make small talk with my friend, while we waited. Then the supervisor said, “I’ll be right back.” We watched her go out to the front counter, where she stood talking with the air quotes woman for about five more minutes. The whole time, I was formulating in my head what should be my next move.
When she came back in, my friend asked, “Is there a problem, ma’am.” She said, “No. No problem at all.” Then she proceeded to fill out all the information. We walked away with our piece of paper and made a trip to the nearest tag agency.
While we waited in line to have the card made, I explained to him that they would ask him if he wants to be an organ donor. He asked me, “Are you an organ donor?” I told him that I am and explained that after I’m dead, I won’t need my organs anyway, and if my organs can help save someone else’s life, I think that would be a pretty great thing to come from my death.
He said, “I’ll probly be cremated, cuz I don’t got no money for a burial. But just in case I come into some money before I die, I’d really like to be buried. If they take your organs, does that mess up your body for the viewing?”
I told him, “They sew you back up, Dude. And they put clothes on you for a viewing, so you’d look just fine.”
Then he asked me, “What if they start cutting you open to take your organs and you’re not really dead?”
I laughed and said, “Well that would be pretty bad. But generally, they make sure someone is dead before they start cutting.”
When he finished getting his picture taken, the lady behind the counter said, “If you want to be an organ donor, you need to mark this box and then sign below.”
He told the woman, “I’m going to be an organ donor, cuz my pastor here convinced me.” He grinned at me. While he was signing, he said, “They generally make sure you’re dead before they start cutting.”