A Salford community and unemployment centre is pioneering a new initiative that will help homeless people to exercise their democratic right to vote.
After getting the green light from Parliament and Salford City Council, the Salford Unemployment and Community Resource Centre’s address and postcode can now be used by homeless people to register to vote in the General Election in June.
With the help of the Booth Centre and Salford City Council, SUCRC has set an aim of registering 10,000 people by the deadline for voter registration, which is midnight tomorrow.
It is a movement that is already catching on across the country, with centres in Sheffield and Walsall taking up the initiative.
And centre manager Alec McFadden says the scheme could be vital to improving the lives of homeless people nationwide.
“What we’re trying to do is give them to the most deprived people in the country who haven’t got a voice,” says Alec. “A lot of people in these situations can just give up in life.
“The thing about civilisation is that everyone has got to participate in it and giving people the right to vote helps that.
“I think its important to involve homeless people in democracy in our society, which they are perfectly entitled to it’s just nobody ever told them.
“I’m hoping it’s something that is going to happen in most towns. I think like most things it is something that will happen across the whole of the country.”
The scheme requires minimal information, only asking people to provide their full names and date of births, with national insurance numbers helpful but not a necessity.
It doesn’t require people to visit the Eccles based centre either. Alec and a number of others have been going out to homeless shelters and areas to speak to homeless people and get them registered.
Alec says the next step will be signing them up to postal votes which could be vital to ensuring as many homeless people as possible are able to vote.
“I think the big thing will be if I can get them postal votes. If they can vote and we can post it off for them.”
The initiative was born out of Alec’s passion to ensure that homeless people were properly given a voice, and he says it is something he hopes it will change political opinions toward them.
“A lot of political parties don’t have a policy on homeless because they weren’t allowed to vote and were irrelevant.
“They didn’t have a voice. They couldn’t express themselves. Well now they can.”
Homelessness has increased 900% in Manchester in the last six years and Gary Dunstan from Street Support says it’s important that homeless people have a say in the issues affecting them.
“Isn’t it great that people who are being let down by ‘the system’ have a voice to try and change things.
“We’ve got to try and encourage that haven’t we?”
Alec, who runs rehabilitation programmes for ex-convicts, says he thinks it will be a big story, especially if there is a large homeless turnout which has a significant effect on seats.
This though it is unlikely to happen in the centre’s constituency Eccles, due to the large majority held by the Labour candidate Rebecca Long-Bailey.
The deadline for voting closes on Monday but you can still get involved and help out, the easiest thing to do if you want to get involved is contact Alec at the SUCRC either by email, [email protected], or over the phone, 0161 789 2999.
Image courtesy of Coventry City Council, with thanks.