Blockchain has already established its use cases in a number of worthy causes. Helping refugees, and reducing poverty in the developing world to name a few. Now, blockchain is also proving its value to vulnerable people closer to home. Several cities are now running blockchain-based initiatives to help the homeless gain quicker and easier access to the services they need.

The Scale of Homelessness

As many as 3.5m US people experience homelessness each year, with over 550,000 sleeping rough on any given night. More than half of those experiencing homelessness are families with children. Many are in the bigger cities, with 1 in 5 homeless people in either New York City or Los Angeles. Things in the UK are even bleaker, with more than 300,000 homeless people, but for a far smaller national population than the US.

People end up homeless for a wide variety of reasons, including tragic changes in life circumstances like the loss of a family member or a job. Mental illness and addiction are also often responsible. Among younger people, it can often be family disputes that force them to leave home with nowhere to go. Although some end up on the streets, others may be sleeping rough in cars or moving from place to place sleeping with friends.

The Necessity of ID

With virtually no means of personal security, homeless people can struggle to secure their belongings. Documents that prove their identity and social security status can quickly become damaged, lost or stolen. Without valid ID documents, homeless people cannot access the everyday services that we usually take for granted.

One US study showed that of homeless people without an ID, more than 53 percent were denied access to food stamps, and more than 51 percent were denied access to social security benefits.

Additionally, even if a homeless person who has lost their ID goes to get a replacement, the horrible irony is that they usually need to provide some form of ID to get a replacement ID. So they are stuck in a bureaucratic Catch-22. The services that can help them get off the streets are inaccessible to them.

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