This is an historic election where a global pandemic, racial unrest, and a looming housing crisis will fall on our next body of elected officials. MCAH believes that every vote counts and encourages individuals experiencing homelessness and those who serve them to use the power of their vote on November 3rd. Learn more at https://mihomeless.org/index.php/advocate/elections/
IT’S ELECTION DAY IN MICHIGAN
Finding safe, affordable housing in Michigan is a problem, and COVID-19 is making it worse. During this election, we need to vote for candidates who offer solutions to address not only a health emergency, but a housing emergency as well.
Before this pandemic, many Americans were just one paycheck away from becoming homeless. Now, after eight months of suffering through a global pandemic, 2.89 million unemployment claimants, and over 30% of Michigan’s households currently at risk of homelessness due to being behind in rent and mortgage payments, we need housing reform more than ever.
Michigan also has brutal racial inequities in our housing policies and homelessness outcomes – and has for decades. Like the rest of our country, our state has upheld racist policies like redlining, discrimination in lending, and even how our homeless response system serves individuals seeking shelter. We’re seeing this exacerbated by our current global health emergency with the fear of eviction rising disproportionately between our white and Black neighbors. Currently, white renter households report a higher confidence level in ability to pay next month’s rent (48%) than Black renter households (32%). For years, Black Michiganders have made up over 50% of our state’s homeless population while accounting for only 13-14% of our state’s population.
This election, we have the right and responsibility to make housing a priority for candidates campaigning to represent Michigan in our federal, state, and local government. We do this with our votes and by empowering those experiencing homelessness to vote.
EMPOWERING SURVIVORS OF HOMELESSNESS TO VOTE
For the past several months, MCAH has been working with communities across our state to make sure that individuals who have experienced homelessness are registered to vote and able to cast their ballots on or before November 3. In Flint, we’ve seen innovative community partnerships to bring people to their clerk’s office to register and receive their absentee ballot. In Detroit, we’ve supported registration drives at multiple shelters. In Holland, we’ve lifted up the voice of one of our Peer Ambassadors who meets regularly with folks to talk about the election and how to vote. We’ve heard their stories about feeling disempowered in the past and been moved to make change for something better.
There’s still time. Election Day may be upon us, but individuals can still register to vote and cast their ballot at their local clerk’s office until 8:00 pm. And they can do so without an ID or a permanent residential address as long as they bring proof of residency – which can include a letter from a church or homeless service provider. Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson explains it best in her message to voters who are also experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity.
WHAT COMES NEXT
And our work doesn’t stop on election day. MCAH will be coordinating efforts to help homeless service providers and individuals who have survived homelessness connect with their newly elected officials. We’ll be holding them to their commitment in our candidate surveys to champion issues of housing and homelessness in Congress and the state legislature. COVID-19 will force our educational forums at the beginning of the 2021-2022 legislative session to look different this year, but we’re committed to providing spaces for you to share your data and stories with those who you’ve elected into office. We hope you’ll join us.
We’ll also continue to work with you to make sure that participating in our electoral process isn’t just something we do in the months before a presidential election. This is year-long work that needs to be incorporated into our outreach, intake, and case management processes. We work to ensure our guests and clients have access to job training, education, health care, food, housing, and more. Why wouldn’t we also make sure that they feel empowered to participate in our democracy and civic engagement? How can we advocate for them without ensuring that they stand beside us when we elect and educate decision makers?
On November 3rd, make sure you and those you serve are prepared to vote for candidates who are committed to bringing smart, proven solutions to Michigan in our work to prevent and end homelessness. Then join us after the election as we hold them accountable and empower those who have survived homelessness to participate in our advocacy and educational opportunities with our elected officials. Because the work doesn’t end after you vote – it’s only the beginning.
By Laurel Burchfield, MCAH Associate Director. You can contact her at: email@example.com.