What's it like to Vote When You're Homeless?

Denver VOICE vendors weigh in. 

 

Photo by Sarah Harvey.Lando Allen

When I first became homeless, I did not care about voting because Bill Clinton was in office. I didn’t really care too much, but when I ended up on the streets I still signed up to vote—and found out how difficult it can be to register in some places.

The first time I tried to register while homeless, I was in Atlanta, and I had lost my ID. I had to get an ID to vote in Georgia. Because I didn’t have an address, I ended up having mail sent to the address of my cousin who lived in a different county. Then I used his address to register. 

So when it came time to vote, I took a day off work. When I got to where I thought was my poling place, though, I found out I was in the wrong county. I didn’t have enough money to get to the county I needed to be in. That was 2000, and I had to sit back and watch a scandal happen. I never want to see that happen in my time again.

Tampa was also hard because I didin’t have an address at all. Denver and Seattle are good, both help homeless people register to vote. Denver will set you up with a registration to vote even when you only have a temporary place. Day shelters are good for people who want to vote. But in places like Texas, they make it harder for homeless to be able to vote.

In Denver, all you have to do is show your ID or letter
to vote.

 

 

Photo by Jesse Borrell.Raelene Johnson

Being homeless is very hard. As a homeless person, you become invisible after a while. You don’t even know what day it is; you’re just trying to find a safe place to sleep, shower, change clothes, or eat. 

Voting was definitely not on my mind when I was homeless.  I didn’t think my voice would be heard, so why should I care who won? I didn’t think the government cared about homeless people or the poor. 

I didn’t vote until the 2008 presidential election. Now I’m registered and have been voting since 2008. 

They may have made it easier for the homeless to vote since I was on the streets, but I still hear a lot of homeless people say, “Why should I vote? No one helps us.” To me it is sad, because I used to feel the same way they feel now.

 

 

Photo by Jesse Borrell.Brian Augustine

When I became homeless, the one thing I really wanted to do was keep my right to vote. I was very happy when I was at St. Francis Center and some people came in to register us to vote. I was one of the first in the small line.

I only had to walk six blocks to reach the poling place. The place was pretty empty. It was a library at 25th and Welton, and for the first time since becoming homeless I didn’t have to wait in a line!


 

Photo by Jesse Borrell.Dwayne Pride

When you’re housed someplace it is the community you live in, so you feel your voice matters for that community. When you’re homeless, you feel unrepresented and voiceless.