Homeless people urged to register to vote

One week to go before deadline

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Homeless people are being urged to make homelessness an election issue by signing up to vote.
Activists and support groups are helping homeless people to register as voters by offering use of their addresses for the forms.

Under the regulations, anyone British who is aged over 18 and not incarcerated is entitled to cast their ballot in the general election on 8 June.

But since registration cards are sent to residential addresses, few homeless people are on the electoral roll.

Give them a voice

Alec McFadden, of Salford Unemployed and Community Resource Centre, said: “This is not only about giving homeless people a vote – it is about giving them a voice.

“The way to ensure politicians listen to people’s concerns is for that group to vote. If the Tory party – and others – realise hundreds of thousands of homeless people will vote then this homelessness crisis is more likely to be addressed. We want to get the message out that this is a good reason for people to vote.”

McFadden has teamed up with organisations across the country to get the word out.

Many homeless centres say they already sign up service users who wish to vote but – after discussions with Salford Council and parliamentary election officers – McFadden’s team is also visiting night shelters, soup runs and people on the streets.

Those who want to register simply sign a form and give their dates of birth, and the activists do the rest. Once they are registered they can apply for a postal vote, which would come to the centre. Registration closes on May 22.

Students from Salford and Manchester universities have been helping out and organisations such as food-bank charity the Trussell Trust have also shown an interest.

Big Issue North vendors are being encouraged to register to vote in each office.

McFadden said: “This is a universal right. There is a loophole which means we can use our office address to register homeless people who have some geographical link with Salford. Others need to do the same elsewhere.

“A number of people have told me it won’t work and councillors have commented that it’s a lot of work but they are missing the point. It’s vital that people can make their voices heard if they want to.”

Danny Macgill, from Sheffield’s Archer Project, said his day centre would be registering voters and also providing electoral information for all candidates standing in the constituency. It has been doing something similar for a number of years already, in partnership with Sheffield City Council and Sheffield Central MP Paul Blomfield.

He said: “Part of it is the technical aspect of it – getting forms filled out. Also though we try to get people talking about the issues as well. We have contacted all the parties running in the Sheffield constituency and asked them to drop information in for service users to read.

“A lot of the time people who are homeless get the sense they feel removed from society and feel their opinions don’t matter. Getting registered as a voter is a small but symbolic way of being involved and I think that’s important.

“The people who take this offer up are usually those who are a bit further along their journeys but who are still on the margins. If anyone has anything to say about society it’s the people living on the margins but they don’t always realise this.”

Photo: Alan Cleaver

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