Step 2: Applying for benefits
Documentation access

Offer safe document storage


Individuals experiencing homelessness or those who have precarious housing may not have a safe place to store their important documents (e.g., tax slips, ID, Social Insurance Number cards, etc.), increasing the chance they get stolen or lost. Providing storage for documents or document photocopies is a way your organization can help individuals access benefits.

  • Staff time — Staff time is required to administer the program, including making copies of documents, and keeping a record of what is being stored for whom.
  • Technology — A client management system or an excel spreadsheet will help to keep records of documents stored.
  • Storage — It is very important to have a safe and secure place to keep personal documents. A safe or a locked cabinet will be required to store documents and limited access to this is recommended.
  • Promotion and marketing — If you are going to promote this program externally, it will require the creation and promotion of marketing materials to other community organizations and via social media.
  • Legal frameworks and insurance — You may want to consider establishing agreements that specify what will happen if documents are damaged or destroyed (e.g., by fire).

  • Establish a client management system to keep track of whose documents you are storing, including a list what documents you have stored for each community member.
  • Establish a secure physical location for clients’ ID (such as a safe or locked filing cabinet with limited staff access.
  • Train staff around safe documentation storage laws and regulations.
  • Allocate staff resources to coordinate the program and provide service to clients.
  • Create and maintain a marketing strategy to promote the program to other organizations within the community.

  • Clients who have had their ID stolen or lost will need to establish trust with you and your organization before feeling comfortable storing their documentation with you. As well, they may have learned to live without identification, so you may need to help them understand the benefits of getting ID.
  • Applications with personal information on them must also be treated in the same secure manner as the actual documentation.
  • Digital security is also important. Do not store client info in cloud services that are not in compliance within PHIPPA and HIPPA regulations in Canada. Microsoft allows for the use of Canadian data centres. Google and Amazon have ways to do this but it is more complicated as They follow US data regulations. Be sure to investigate.

Reconnect is an application program that allows homeless Montrealers to keep personal documents online.

Read about the Keeper’s Project in Oshawa.

Here is a list of some of the personal information and privacy rules for provinces:

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Best practices

Get practical tools, methods, and advice. Learn from other organizations who are already providing access to benefits services by accessing this collection of their best practices.

Best practices