There is a large gap between those who vote and those who don’t. Four years ago 80% of people making above $150,000 voted, compared to 47% of people who made less than $10,000.
This difference in turnout has huge effects on ballot initiatives – what people are literally voting for – as well as who gets elected and what they in turn vote for.
We need more than volunteers and donations to help people struggling with homelessness. We need votes.
San Francisco is the most visible example where the fight over homelessness is literally on the ballot. Their Proposition Q would allow officers to remove homeless residents from their tents and get rid of their belongings with only 24 hours notice.
John Avalos, San Francisco’s city supervisor, says, “This measure does not do anything to increase supportive housing, it pushes people from sidewalk to sidewalk, from block to block, in the hope of housing that doesn't exist.”
Legislation like this is on ballots across the country and will have a profound impact on how communities care for their most vulnerable citizens. Just as we saw in the 2012 election, the people who will be most affected by it will have the smallest say in whether or not it passes. That’s why vulnerable populations need strong allies to stand up and advocate with them for fair and just policies.
While there are no ballot initiatives regarding homelessness in Washington, DC, a recent bill was introduced to City Council that would make all ID’s and vital records free for low-income individuals.
ID’s and records are critical necessities for people on the margins. Homeless shelters, job applications, Social Security benefits, and the ability to vote are just a few of the things the homeless need IDs for. It’s extremely expensive for non-profits to provide the fees necessary to get these documents, so legislation like this can help homeless individuals get the documents they need to take the next step to self-sufficiency while freeing up resources for nonprofits to focus on other critical services.
However, legislation only passes when council members vote for them. Homelessness is not a priority for every elected official, and if we want to overcome structural barriers keeping our clients from escaping homelessness, we need strong allies everywhere we can get them.
This election, remember that your vote matters. You vote for the representatives that set the laws regarding affordable housing, the minimum wage, and how strong a safety net our city’s poorest communities have. Voting is important to ensure that our representatives advocate for all of us, especially those who have the least opportunity for influence.