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'I had no ID, no birth certificate, nothing,' The Food Project is helping solve this problem.

Posted at 11:27 PM, Mar 12, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-12 23:48:46-04

BALTIMORE — Once a month, The Food Project on Pulaski Street opens a space where people can take a written driver's test for their learner's permit and get other forms of ID that were either lost or destroyed.

It has helped hundreds of people.

Tyree Johnson started volunteering with the food project at 14 years old.

He was arrested twice. By age 17, he never wanted to be in jail again. So, he started looking for a job.

While applying, he says he realized the impact of not having any identification.

“I did have no social security. I had no ID, no birth certificate; I ain’t have nothing," says Johnson.

With Michelle Suazo’s help, he says he was able to get his birth certificate and a social security card.

But he says the hardest part was trying to get a driver's license.

“It took me 15 times. Yeah, 15. I was on the tip, like I ain’t even want it," says Johnson.

Suazo says he isn’t the only one who kept failing the written exam.

She realized many people who would go to the motor vehicle administration to take the test for their learner's permit were failing.

Why? They couldn’t read or comprehend the test.

“If there is such a need for the test to be read so that we can have legal drivers, then we need to do something about it, and of course, starting with education, that's really the base," says Michelle Suazo.

Johnson says when The Food Project partnered with the MVA and the Franciscan Center to bring the testing to the community, he was finally able to pass the test.

“After I got my license, it was up. That was like the happiest day of my life," says Johnson.

Bobby Jones says he wanted a license for the longest time but never took the test.

He got his first driver's license at 35.

He says that because the test was read to him and he was able to ask questions and get direct help, he passed the first time.

“It was a blessing; me personally, I don’t like driving without no license.”

But driver's licenses are not the only thing people are missing.

Suazo says the food project has been trying to help people get all the forms of identification they need at little to no cost.

“They can take the learners permit test, they can put in process if they are missing their social security card, but if they can’t afford the cost for an ID, then the Franciscan Center can give them a voucher," says Suazo.

In February, almost 150 people got their learner's permit, and 30 others were able to get other forms of ID at The Food Project.

Now that Tyree Johnson and Bobby Jones both have driver's licenses, they say they both want to get their CDL license so they can become truck drivers.

Every third Friday of the month, the food project helps people get their learner's permits and documents.

Testing is from 9 am to 2:45 pm