Due to the pressures of urbanization, the urban poor often find themselves trapped in illegal settlements and informal employment. As housing is not affordable and formal employment is inaccessible to them because of their lack of education and skills, they live a precarious existence with insecure land tenure and employment. Discriminated against by the state on the grounds of their illegal status, the urban poor are unable to establish their identity and personhood rights as urban citizens, and so cannot access basic rights such as health care and social security. This article is based on fieldwork in Surakarta in Indonesia which studied the impact of a land-titling programme in an area previously characterized by informal tenure. It finds that the legitimation provided by land titles had a significant impact upon the lives of the residents, enabling them to access other personhood rights.