GLS Birth Certificate Program Helps Hundreds Gain Access to Services
Program continues to flourish after the passing of its founder, Pam Wiener Dubrule
The Gulfcoast Legal Services Birth Certificate Program began as the project of a long-time leader in the organization, Pam Wiener Dubrule, a beloved champion for the homeless in St. Petersburg, who recently passed away from cancer.
Pam recognized that for many homeless individuals, obtaining shelter and benefits (food and access to medical care) includes stopping by a full service shelter to present their IDs so they can begin the process of becoming eligible for benefits. Many, however, do not have any form of identification. They may have lost documentation while fleeing violence, had it destroyed in fires or other natural disasters, or they may have been born to a midwife in a time when birth certificates were not stringently inscribed. Many have been denied access to life saving benefits because of this.
Pam recognized a need for a Birth Certificate Program soon after the State of Florida began issuing REAL ID compliant credentials in 2010. Under the new requirements, residents can’t get an ID without a birth certificate. Yet they can’t get a birth certificate without an ID. In order to establish identity, individuals must have an attorney who is willing to put his or her law license on the line to verify they are who they say they are. A fierce advocate for the homeless, Pam was quick to establish a program to assist homeless persons who otherwise would not be able to obtain critical identification documents.
With support from several local community centers, GLS helped 184 individuals in 2018 and the demand for services continues to increase in 2019. The social service agencies assist with program outreach, coordinating directly with the GLS project attorney to provide services.
In addition, the birth certificate program can be life-altering for individuals living in low-income households throughout Pinellas. Many public benefits, housing, and other necessities can only be obtained with proper identification.
GLS attorney, Kathryn Hynes, is the current head of the program. She works with agencies from other states, and sometimes other countries, to obtain the necessary documents for clients to gain access to housing, a driver’s license, a job, public benefits, etc. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights guarantees that, “Everyone shall have the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.” But without proper identification documents, individuals are essentially not people before the law. The program Ms. Dubrule began has helped the disadvantaged in our community gain the recognition they deserve before the law.
“Those of us with identity credentials on hand can’t imagine the treacherous impediments people without ID often must hack their way through… no opportunity for employment, for safe housing, for public benefits. The GLS Birth Certificate Program can help people begin living a more manageable life.” – Kathryn Hynes, lead attorney for the birth certificate program.
GLS is incredibly thankful to its donors, grant investors, and supporters throughout the community for helping them expand their outreach to the service area. A summer internship for Stetson College of Law students has been started in Pam Wiener Dubrule’s name. Donations for this internship can be made by visiting gulfcoastlegal.org/donate with the donation ear-marked “Dubrule internship” in the instructions section.
A follow up article to this piece was written by the Tampa Bay Times and listed here.