Homeless does not mean voteless

November 10, 2006

From Wednesday’s Boston Metro:

Jacqueline Johnson has lived at the Pine Street Inn off and on for 20 years. It hasn’t stopped her from having a voice on Election Day. “I vote because civil rights leaders worked hard for us to have the chance to vote, so I’m doing my part,” said Johnson, who registered with the Pine Street Inn address. “Voting is my duty.” Aimee Coolidge, the director of community and government relations at the Pine Street Inn, makes it her duty to help the homeless get heard through their vote.

A nice short interview follows. Coolidge adds that “[the homeless] can use [their shelter] as an address,” implying that this practice extends beyond Boston. Pine Street seems like a pretty stellar, example, though:

Have there been more seeking assistance for this election? Not at Pine Street, as we [promote voting] all the time. We are always trying to register them. We ask them when they come to us if they are registered. As we get closer to an election, we organize voter registration events. The hardest part is having a homeless person believe their voice does count. Sometimes they are just worried about where they are going to sleep tonight. But the results can affect them more than anyone.

Well put, Ms. Coolidge. Well put.

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Housing First

July 20, 2006

On Point this morning deals with a national program called Housing First, which provides housing for the chronically homeless. The questions from listeners and remarks from critics (one in Washington calls the program “Bunks for Drunks”) seem to mostly concern whether the other conditions often associated with homelessness–alcaholism, mental illness, and drug addiction, for example–should be treated first, with housing as a sort of “reward,” as well as the question of whether non-chronically homeless individuals, particularly the young, the elderly, or those with families, should have priority over single people.

My question, though, is whether programs like these do anything to address the underlying causes of homelessness, rather than the symptoms. The host did briefly mention de-institutionalization, which I consider a tragic period in our history, but what about other factors?