‘We’re no different’: York Region shelter encourages homeless to vote in federal election

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York Region shelter ensures homeless vote in federal election
WATCH ABOVE: A shelter for the homeless in York Region is working with Elections Canada to ensure its residents get a chance to vote on Monday. Caryn Lieberman reports – Oct 16, 2019

After spending months in a shelter in York Region, expectant mother of three Melissa Jones is settling into a new apartment.

“It is so difficult to find an apartment it has taken me almost a year,” said Jones.

Without the services provided by the shelter Blue Door, she said she would have ended up on the streets, separated from her children.

As housing affordability is a top concern for Jones, it is for that very reason plans to cast her ballot in the federal election Oct. 21.

“If you don’t vote you really can’t have much of a say,” said Jones.

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For those still living at Blue Door, a mobile polling station is being brought in by Elections Canada to ensure that their population is able to vote.

There are other barriers that Blue Door is working to remove for its residents as well, like a lack of identification.

“You may be at home and you may get your election card in the mail,” said Blue Door CEO Michael Braithwaite, adding, “They wouldn’t have that because they might not have a permanent address so we work with them on that.. for a short time this is their home so we work with Elections Canada.”

Since 1982, Blue Door has offered safe and supportive emergency housing and housing services and supports for people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

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“In this election we know that affordability and housing are big issues, even more so to the people staying with us,” said Braithwaite.

People like Megan Valley, a mother of three, who is 36 but will be voting for the first time.

“I’m definitely voting this year.. first time .. hope everybody is proud,” she laughed.

Valley said experiencing homelessness has opened her eyes to the importance of voting.

“I don’t want this to happen to other people or start the process of making it better for people who need it, families that need it, even single people that need it,” she said.

James Lawrence is also staying at Blue Door, having been in and out of the shelter system for the last 20 years.

“We’re no different than somebody that owns a house, that is a CEO of a big company, we are just average people in a bad situation and our situation needs to be brought to the forefront,” said Lawrence.

Without skipping a beat, he added, the most important issue he wants the next Prime Minister to tackle, is “affordable housing.. there is not enough out there, thank goodness for the shelter system.”

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“The wait to get into a shelter could be five months and then when you’re in here it’s because the housing rate is so high and unaffordable especially for a single mother with kids,” added Lawrence.

His message to others across Canada is simple.

“I want everybody to know that their voice means something.”

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