Client Action Committee Dedicated to Reducing Barriers in Voting for People Experiencing Homelessness – By Michael Grant
During the 2017 Calgary Municipal Election, the Client Action Committee was involved in making sure that people with the lived experience of homelessness had their voices heard. During their weekly meetings, they developed multiple strategies to make sure that the homeless community knew their options when it came to voting in the municipal election. Here are some of initiatives they were involved in:
- The CAC identified barriers that the homeless community face when voting and decided to create an informative poster and leaflet to distribute to the various shelters in Calgary. There was also a link created on the I Heart Home YYC website containing this material as well. The handouts had information regarding how people could vote if they didn’t have identification, locations of advanced voting locations and voting buses in the downtown core (including a bus at the Drop-In Center), how to people could vote by mail if they experienced mobility issues, and identifying which ward people would be voting in based on the shelter they were staying at.
- Members of the CAC attended a mayoral forum hosted by the Calgary Chamber of Voluntary Organizations (CCVO) to ask the candidates where they stand on issues related to homelessness in Calgary. Members also attended a municipal policy fair hosted by the Social Policy Collaborative to meet and greet the candidates for mayor, city councillor, and school board trustee. They asked tough and thoughtful questions that shed light on issues surrounding homelessness in Calgary.
- On October 4 and 11th, an advanced voting bus was stationed at the Drop-In Center to make it easier for individuals using their services to vote. The CAC took this opportunity to be there on both days to engage the community at the Drop-In Center and give out attestation forms if they did not have identification. In total, CAC members handed out 72 attestation forms and 124 individuals voted on the bus. The City of Calgary made a great effort in attempting to reduce voting barriers for the homeless community, but the CAC suggests that a voting station be present in the Drop-in Center during the next municipal election like there was in the 2015 federal election.
- During this process and interacting with the community, it appeared that there was a lack of interest in voting due to lack of knowledge about the candidates. For future elections, the CAC will be making a concerted effort to educate the homeless community about the candidates.
The Client Action Committee is dedicated to making sure that issues related to homelessness are being addressed by political leaders. They know that becoming politically involved and voting is one of the most important steps a person can take to making a difference in their community. Thank you to the Client Action Committee for all their hard work and dedication to being advocates for those with the lived experience of homelessness!
The author wishes to thank the members of the Client Action Committee, Wanda Pintye from The City of Calgary Elections, Jordan Hamilton and the staff at the Calgary Drop-In Center, the Calgary Chamber of Voluntary Organizations, Social Policy Collaborative, Vibrant Communities Calgary, and anyone else who helped along the way.