A Helping Hand
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the MDOT MVA provided documentation for dozens of people experiencing homelessness
For people experiencing homelessness, one of the biggest hurdles to finding permanent housing is having documentation. In 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, this was even more difficult due to office closures. That’s why the Baltimore City Mayor’s Office of Homelessness Services (MOHS) came to the Maryland Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Administration (MDOT MVA) in late November 2020 with a question: Could MDOT MVA help MOHS get a group of people experiencing homelessness identification in just a few weeks?
“They had about 100 people for whom the only thing holding them back from getting into permanent or semipermanent housing was not having the right credentials to start going through the process,” says Adrienne Diaczok, Director, Office of Customer Experience at MDOT MVA. “We thought, ‘How can we help them? What can we do?’”
The individuals were temporarily being housed in hotels in Baltimore City, but they would need to be relocated by March 2021. Diaczok worked with her team, including her customer advocate, to create a plan. They decided to first meet the customers where they were in their hotels to determine what documents they already had in the system, if any.
“My customer advocate brought a couple of outreach folks and just went through all of the clients,” says Diaczok. “It was still early into COVID, so we protected them as best we could, but we knew for these clients it was a chance to get housing and we had to do what we could to get these people their life’s opportunities—that is part of our vision and mission statement: Connecting people to life’s opportunities.”
Diaczok says that the biggest challenge in this project was the logistics. “We had to coordinate with the hotels and with Baltimore City during COVID,” she says. “We needed to make sure that we could have a space to do what we need to do, but also that the people we needed to help were there. We did a lot of promotion among the customers to make sure they knew what was happening and what they were going to get out of it. And then we had to manage the moving parts of getting a bus to Baltimore City and where we would park it.”
Referencing the next step of the plan, once those initial meetings with clients were done, Diaczok’s team brought in the MDOT MVA Mobile Bus, which is essentially an MVA branch on wheels. “We do have a branch in Baltimore City, but at the time the logistics of getting people there to do all the things that were needed just didn’t make sense,” she explains. “So the bus pulled up, ready with three or four people to operate it. We had the clients scheduled so they could come in, get their picture taken, and then we’d send their ID to the shelter address we had on file. Overall, we were able to get 60 people documentation so they had it in time to get housing.”
For Diaczok and her team, achieving this goal was incredibly satisfying. “That is really just the best feeling,” she says. “To be able to do all of this for these folks and get them on a path to where they could be back on their feet, especially around the holidays.” The commitment to serving customers echoed the MDOT MVA’s mission statement: “We’re looking to connect people to life’s opportunities no matter who the customer is. It shouldn’t matter if they don’t have a permanent address, we can help that person. I think that’s what our team is here to do, and they did it flawlessly.”