New voting program eyes the homeless
City of Montreal election officials have begun a new program that aims to get homeless Montrealers out to cast their vote in the elections this November.
Election Montreal official Pierre Laporte says he hopes allowing a shelter to serve as someone's fixed address can help bring out more homeless voters.
Bernard St-Jacques is the community organizer for RAPSIM, a resource network for the homeless in Montreal.
He says homeless Montrealers were unable to vote in the last city election in 2009 because Elections Montreal did not recognize shelters as someone's fixed address.
"One of the principal [criticisms] made in 2009 by the homeless is we have no address and we are recognized in nothing," he said.
But though the program will ensure Montreal shelters can stand in for someone's residence, Laporte says there is more to the process than simply getting a letter from a shelter.
"They'll need more to register, they'll need also another kind of identification, whether it's a health insurance card or a hospital," he explained.
Those interested will also need to be registered by the city for the elections, which will have to be done in October.
St-Jacques says this itself presents its own challenges.
"That's a lot of things for [homeless people] who have a lot of other specific things to do in their life," he said.
"For homeless people, it's important to do something now-I need to eat now, I need money now-so it's difficult to make a process of one month to have access to [voting]," he continued, but that his organization will be ready with volunteers to help their homeless clients through the process.
Photo: Bragwyn Jones