New photo ID system: Catholic Charities says getting help will be easier for those in need

Oct 13, 2014

Volunteers packing food at St. Vincent's Food Pantry
Credit Photo by Anh Gray

There’s an array of social support that a person living in poverty may need, like access to a shelter, a food pantry or health care. But actually getting those services can be challenging and time consuming. Catholic Charities of Northern Nevada began using a new photo ID system this month to make getting this type of help much easier.

St. Vincent's Food Pantry
Credit Photo by Anh Gray

On a typical day, roughly 800 people come through the doors of the St. Vincent’s food pantry in downtown Reno. Michael Robbins is one of about two dozen people waiting to pick up a box of canned foods and some fruit.

“Ah, being unemployed and one person working…food is always a problem," Robbins says. "So this is going to help.”

To make ends meet, Robbins has been to St. Vincent’s in the past, waiting as long as two hours when staff had a hard time finding people’s records with the previous paper-based system that was in place.

This time though, Robbins has his new Clarity Card in hand. It’s a photo ID that is swiped each time he goes to the food pantry. Now, staff can pull up his data immediately and Robbins can be on his way in minutes

Social worker Anne Schiller is with Catholic Charities, which runs the food bank. She says these cards will also track data that, in the long run, will help service providers plan their programs.

“We’ll be able to track the number of times they’re going to different locations, if they’re utilizing multiple food pantries just to meet their need,” Shiller says. “It tells us a story about the need in the community and that, in turn, helps us go out and get more funding to help those folks that are in need.”

According to Shiller, it’s estimated that more than 20,000 people will be issued a Clarity Card. Catholic Charities is spearheading the new system, which in the next several months will be linked to a web of more than 25 other government and nonprofit agencies working together.

“I’m hoping that partners that are using the system come together and are able to serve this population in a more cohesive way,” Shiller says.

The new system will cut down on people having to go to several places to fill out paperwork for different types of assistance. Instead, once they are in the system, the Clarity Cards give providers a more complete picture of the person’s needs and, if necessary, refer them to agencies that can help.