Push Is On To Register Colorado’s Homeless Population To Vote

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Photo: Denver Homeless 3 | Beds in Denver Rescue Mission
The Denver Rescue Mission in downtown has 200 beds and space for 115 mats at its Lawrence Street Shelter for single men.

Registering to vote requires a home address, both to determine which elections you can vote in, and so you can get your ballot in the mail. But what about people who call the street their home?

A lot of them can vote, too.

Secretary of State Wayne Williams was among those Tuesday who launched a voter registration event tackling that issue outside a public library on Colfax Avenue in Aurora.

The workers there were happy to help anyone who happened by with registration questions, but their real targets were the many homeless people who often frequent that stretch of Colfax. The goal: Tell as many of them as possible that not having a permanent address doesn’t disqualify anyone from voting.

James Gillespie, who heads up government relations for the non-profit Mile High Behavioral Healthcare, one of the sponsoring organizations, says it’s important to make sure the homeless are active participants in the political conversation.

“You might be homeless, but you don’t need to be voiceless,” he said. “Really, of all folks that need to sound off on policy and funding decisions and our tight affordable housing market, they should have an opportunity to engage their voice. And we felt that registering folks to vote would be a great opportunity for them to do so.”

People registering to vote do need to provide a primary address but Gillespie said the law is fairly forgiving about what qualifies, including a bus stop or a park bench.

“That’s fine to claim on the form,” he said.

Because Colorado is a mail-in ballot state, voters also need a mailing address. That’s where some shelters step in. For example, about 1,500 people are registered to get their ballots at the St. Francis Center in downtown Denver.

Tuesday’s homeless registration drive only added about a dozen folks to the voter rolls in its first few hours. That may not be because of apathy, but because so many are already registered. Lawrence Chambers and his friends all are. They were resting in a small park a few block from the registration drive.

“I stay registered to vote, hopefully so that we can change what’s going on right now,” he said.

Chambers said he became homeless a few months ago, after his landlord nearly doubled his rent. Despite not having much access to the news, he and his friends are doing their best to keep up on the presidential election.

Perhaps it’s not surprising that Chambers has one issue on his mind above all others.

“I’m just tired of no affordable housing. So that’s what I’m voting for, some affordable housing.”

Come Election Day, he plans to take the concerns of the street to the ballot box.