The Homeless Fund: Homeless people cast votes on election day for a brighter future

Electoral rules allow people without a fixed address to register at a place where they spend a lot of time, such as a hostel

Naomi Ackerman,Harriet Brewis
Thursday 12 December 2019 17:52 GMT

Hundreds of homeless Londoners are voting in Thursday's general election following a registration drive by charities supported by the Independent and Evening Standard's appeal.

Over the past six weeks, The Big Issue and smaller organisations, including The Passage in Victoria and women’s shelter the Marylebone Project have run registration days.

Electoral rules allow people without a fixed address to register at a place where they spend a lot of time, such as a hostel, drop-in centre, or even a previous address, through a “declaration of local connection” form.

In 2016, the Electoral Commission found that 2,963 people used the mechanism to register nationwide.

No official figures are yet available, but it is hoped that number will increase at Thursday's vote.

Today it is estimated that there are more than 170,000 people in London with no fixed home.

Esther, 51, who has been living in the Marylebone Project for several months, said: “There are lots of things to deal with homelessness, no one should have to sleep or have to die in the street.

“But I’m not just voting about homelessness, I am voting on all the issues.”

Support worker Sidney Nurthen, 24, who organised three registration days for the project’s 112 live-in clients and around 100 day-centre users, said: “For the women it’s important that they have a say in this election.

“Because of the chaotic nature of rough sleeping, our day centre users mostly opted for postal votes because they didn’t know where they would be today.”

Mick Clarke, chief executive of The Passage, said 80 of the centre’s users had registered to vote on Thursday.

Stephen Robertson, CEO of Big Issue Foundation, said: “While we don’t know exactly how many homeless people have registered to vote in this election, we've had an increase in Big Issue vendors registering and have used our offices as an address.”

Together with sister title The Evening Standard, this paper has launched a two-year appeal, The Homeless Fund.

Using appeal money, the London Homeless Collective, a coalition of 23 charities delivering direct services to people sleeping rough or at risk of homelessness in London, will work to target the worst gaps in provision - particularly around support for homeless women such as the people voting today at the Marylebone Project - mental health provision and initiatives such as the one encouraging voter registration.

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