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QR Codes Just Don’t Work For Everyone

This is the new reality: Every time you leave your home, you make sure you have your keys, your phone, your face mask, your proof of vaccination and your ID. If you don’t, chances are you won’t be able to enter a mall, dine at a restaurant or attend indoor events.

QR codes, or ‘’quick response’’ codes, have been around for a while but they’ve become ubiquitous since the pandemic. Now, you can browse restaurant menus, find the best deals by your favourite retailer, complete a COVID-19 screening, and promptly visit a website to find out more information.

QR codes were meant to add convenience and offer a no-contact way to interact. While they do make life easier for many, there is a big flaw when it comes to the thousands of people who are experiencing homelessness and poverty.

homeless female is suffering from hunger and cold

Homelessness and The Digital Divide

The digital divide between people experiencing homelessness and the rest of the world has never been more apparent.

Here are some reasons why QR Codes just don’t work for homeless people:

QR Codes Require a Smart Device

Without a smart device, it is impossible to scan a QR code. This means that, without a smart device, a person cannot enter a place where vaccine QR codes are mandatory.

Research shows that many people experiencing homelessness do own a mobile phone. This is very necessary as having a phone ensures they have access to certain supports and services, and is how they can connect with their case workers as well.

But, for someone who is having difficulty meeting their basic needs, smartphones and data plans are beyond what many can afford. The cheapest mobile plan with data in Ontario is at least $50 per month.

People struggling to survive often have to make tough choices between a warm meal, transportation and proper clothing every day. This might leave paying your phone bill low on the priority list.

IDs Are Commonly Asked For with a Vaccine QR Code

Having a valid piece of photo identification is a necessity that many of us take for granted. But when you are experiencing homelessness, a valid ID is not always a given.

Someone who is experiencing homelessness might not have an ID for the following reasons: They might not have a birth certificate, a certificate of Canadian Citizenship, a Certificate of Registration of Birth, or even a SIN number.

Along with needing the proper documentation, there are also a few administrative hurdles to obtaining an ID, such as providing a proof of address, a guarantor, etc. These barriers often discourage people from the application process altogether.

During the harsh winter months, people experiencing homelessness will seek refuge and warmth in places like shopping malls, coffee shops and other public spaces. But without proper ID and proof of vaccination, this is not possible.

What We Do To Make Things Easier For People Experiencing Homelessness

These new pandemic rituals, like having to show your phone when you enter a restaurant, may seem like minor inconveniences to most. But if it means you are constantly being turned away, to face the cold, dark streets, it could be humiliating and dangerous.

At Fred Victor, we are responsive to the changing needs of the community we serve, and we work to ensure that people experiencing homelessness are supported during these challenging times.

While we have stringent screening and PPE protocol in place across all of our sites, we offer immediate services to people who come through our doors – whether they looking for a hot meal and warm clothes, looking for a place to sleep, looking for medical services, or looking for housing.

Our ID clinics and Drop-in programs have helped many people get the identification they need to begin accessing more services. And if they are not vaccinated, we host mobile COVID vaccine clinics, as well as a permanent vaccine clinic out of our 40 Oak St. location (run by one of our healthcare partners). We work with cell phone providers to get phones and tablets to people in need.

The world has changed so much in these past 20 months. But we are committed to be there for the most vulnerable in our community – so that no one gets left behind.

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