Charity helps Vancouver’s homeless have their say in election

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People experiencing homelessness in Vancouver will have the support they need to cast a vote in the federal election, thanks to the efforts of a Downtown Eastside charity.

Union Gospel Mission is hosting voter information booths to ensure homeless Canadians know they are eligible to vote, as well as helping people navigate complex ID requirements.

Rick will be one of dozens of Vancouver people experiencing homelessness that will get to vote in the federal election thanks to Downtown Eastside charity Union Gospel Mission. Photo: UGM/David Grice

It’s the second time the organization, which is dedicated to helping people overcome homelessness, poverty and addiction, has offered the city’s most vulnerable people a chance to have their voices heard in an election.

“We had at least 36 people vote during the last municipal election that otherwise wouldn’t have been able to do so,” Jeremy Hunka, a UGM spokesperson, told Vancouver Is Awesome.

“During advanced polls this federal election, up to 15 voted through our services.

“We expect dozens more potentially on election day.”

In cases where homeless guests don’t have the necessary identification, UGM staff can help by signing ‘confirmation of residence’ letters, and by ‘vouching’ for the identities of guests whose ID is damaged, lost or stolen—common problems on the street.

Hunka said UGM’s address is put down as the residence (601 E Hastings) for those without a fixed address that access services at the charity.

Rick, who did not want his last name published, will be one of many UGM clients taking up the opportunity.

Rick will be one of dozens of Vancouver people experiencing homelessness that will get to vote in the federal election thanks to Downtown Eastside charity Union Gospel Mission. Photo: UGM/David Grice

With no address, no ID, and no home, the 48-year-old thought he had no hope of voting, until he heard UGM could help.

“Having lived in the shadows for so long, I regarded myself as an invisible, disposable member of society,” Rick said.

“Voting makes me feel more powerful. I have a voice.”

He’ll be casting his first-ever ballot Oct 21.

Rachael Allen, from UGM, said the organization’s homeless guests “have the most at stake during this election but ironically face the most hurdles”.

“National crises like housing, affordability, and fentanyl disproportionately impact the homeless,” she said.

“They have every right to shape their future.”

The organization will also host polls on Election Day in the Downtown Eastside, allowing guests to vote nearby.

About UGM

Union Gospel Mission has been feeding hope and changing lives of men, women, youth, and children for more than 78 years. Through its seven locations in Metro Vancouver and the city of Mission, UGM provides emergency shelter, meals, outreach, career development counselling, education, safe and affordable housing, addiction recovery, and much more to those struggling with poverty, homelessness and addiction.