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National Voter Registration Day

Written by Nadia Busekrus on . Posted in Uncategorized

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the National Coalition for the Homeless’ “You Don’t Need a Home to Vote” campaign. What was a problem in 1992 is still a problem today – homeless individuals vote at a lower rate than non-homeless individuals, even though homelessness does not disqualify anyone from voting. In fact, voting allows un-housed men and women to have a say in government by electing leaders who will advocate for the rights and well being of the homeless community.

Registering to vote can feel like an overwhelming task, and a lack of typical forms of identification as well as the reality of living without an address can discourage homeless individuals from trying to register. In order to support houseless people, the National Coalition for the homeless has put together two resources – a 2017 National Guide to Voter Registration Guidelines (an update to our 2016 “You Don’t Need a Home to Vote” guide) and, for people living in the D.C. Metro area (Virginia, Maryland, and D.C.), an in-depth Guide to DMV Voter Registration Cards.

If you are someone who is currently experiencing homelessness, please contact one of your local election officials who would be happy to answer any of your questions about the registration process. Voting is such an important way to make your voice heard!

If you are a friend of the homeless, please make sure you vote too and consider leaders who will support the homeless community! Also, if you have relationships with any un-housed men or women in your community, offer to help them register to vote!

The National Coalition for the Homeless does not support or oppose any political candidate or party. Our informational materials are strictly for educational purposes and suggest no endorsement, bias, or preference.

The ongoing quest to protect the rights of homeless people

Written by Annie Leomporra on . Posted in Uncategorized

As America’s poverty and homelessness crisis continues to escalate, men, women, and children across the country have resorted to finding shelter for themselves in the form of homeless encampments, known colloquially as ‘tent cities.’ There’s currently a six-digit shortage of emergency beds for those defined as ‘literally homeless’ by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, meaning that for many homeless individuals and families, there is no other option when it comes to immediate shelter.

Most communities faced with the increasing dilemma of encampments in public and private spaces have, until very recently, reacted negatively toward their unhoused neighbors. Encampments in every part of the country where homelessness abounds have faced forced closures, often with little or no regard shown for the residents’ civil or property rights. However, a recent string of legal victories might be turning the tide on what has been described by the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington and other organizations as “policies which chase people from one place to another, without effectively answering the question: Where can people go?”

In January, the city of Honolulu agreed to refrain from disposing of personal property including tents, bicycles, clothing and household goods as a partial settlement of a federal lawsuit brought by the ACLU that alleged improper treatment of the homeless and others cleared from Oahu sidewalks.

In June, the L.A. City Council approved nearly $950,000 in settlement fees and attorney costs for a pair of lawsuits charging that the city violated the civil rights of homeless individuals by impounding their personal property without allowing adequate time for people to separate out their medication and medical supplies.

Earlier this month, Ponoma, California agreed to build 388 lockers for the property of homeless people and to stop enforcing three laws that prohibit tents, personal property and overnight sleeping on public property until sufficient accommodations exist, either in indoor shelters or open spaces designated for overnight stays.

Finally, just yesterday Akron, Ohio settled a federal lawsuit involving how it removes homeless citizens’ belongings from public and private property, agreeing to change its policies and pay $20,000 in damages and court costs after police unfairly seized and destroyed homeless citizens’ tents, documents and other personal property in a series of raids.

These and other legal victories are helping to change the conversation about homeless encampments from, “How fast can we get rid of them,” to “how can we better address encampments without ignoring the needs of homeless residents.” We still have a long way to go before the majority of the country recognizes the right of persons experiencing homelessness to exist in public spaces, but progress is being made. To learn more about the encampment closure crisis, read our report.

California Considers Homeless Voter Registration Act

Written by Annie Leomporra on . Posted in Uncategorized

As we inch closer toward the general election this November, it’s urgent that we focus on making it as easy as possible for the voices of people experiencing homelessness to be acknowledged through their vote. While the National Coalition for the Homeless has made great strides over the last two and a half decades in helping to secure the rights of individuals without secure housing to register and vote, there are still plenty of areas for improvement.

California State Senator Carol Liu

In February of this year California State Senator Carol Liu introduced SB 928, the Homeless Voter Registration Act, for consideration. Over the past two decades states as diverse as Illinois, Arizona, and West Virginia have adopted similar acts, which are based upon NCH’s own model legislation. The Homeless Voter Registration Act would amend California’s elections and motor vehicles codes in order to allow people experiencing homelessness to use their shelter address, post office, or the cross streets closest to where they reside when applying for a state ID.

This kind of change is more important than ever with new voter identification requirements popping up across the country, though the inability to get a government-issued photo ID can be a barrier to even registering to vote. However, it’s by no means the only barrier that people experiencing homelessness can face when trying to exercise their constitutional right  to vote. Many people lack the documentation necessary to apply for photo ID’s, and retrieving it can be a difficult and relatively expensive process. Depending on the locations of polling places, the lack of transportation can also pose a serious problem.

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways that you can help. Contact your local service providers and churches to see which ones provide assistance in obtaining legal documents, and connect your homeless neighbors to those services. Start your own voter registration drive using materials available on our website’s “You Don’t Need a Home to Vote” campaign page. When voting starts, coordinate with shelters and other providers to help transport registered voters to their polling locations. Together we can make sure that everyone who wants to vote in 2016 has the opportunity to do so.

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