It’s an election year, and here in Philadelphia, we’re feeling the usual election-year buzz.
This year, Pennsylvanians will elect a governor and a U.S. senator – so people across the city are organizing, registering, mobilizing and educating potential voters and candidates on the state’s critical issues.
This year, one of the most active groups mobilizing voters is a coalition called Vote For Homes!, a group comprised of people experiencing homelessness, formerly homeless persons, low-income individuals and families, along with allies and advocates.
For the past dozen election cycles (or so), Vote For Homes! has worked to mobilize and educate citizens during the about the issues that impact our communities, with particular emphasis on the needs of low-income and homeless people and families: housing, jobs, and support services. Drawing on a range of experience and expertise, Vote For Homes! proposes constructive policies and engages in dialogue with candidates. We lead non-partisan voter registration campaigns, reaching out especially to folks in shelters, programs and struggling neighborhoods where people often feel alienated from the political system. Project H.O.M.E. is proud to be one of the leaders in the Vote For Homes! campaign.
We do this because we recognize that it isn’t enough to provide quality services to persons and families in need – we must also address the structures, systems, and policies that aggravate situations of poverty and homelessness. We do this because we believe that all citizens must act responsibly through the political process to try to better our community.
And – most importantly – we do it because it works.
During the 2008 mayoral election, we reached out to all the candidates with a platform to address critical issues about homelessness and poverty in the city. We packed a local church for one of the most well-attended and energetic candidate forums of the entire campaign. We hosted hundreds at a Get Out a Vote rally and both major candidates appeared to speak to our constituents.
The eventual winner, Mayor Michael Nutter, quickly reached out to us for input in formulating policies on homelessness. A few months into his administration the Mayor announced significant new initiatives which have resulted in over 2,000 new housing opportunities created for homeless persons and families thus far. He has also worked hard in the midst of major economic crisis to minimize cuts to programs serving the most vulnerable citizens.
This shows what can happen when we take our democratic rights and responsibilities seriously – it shows what can happen when we claim our power as individuals and as a community working together.
But we also need to realize that success only happens when we work together.
In the past several years, we’ve registered well over 10,000 homeless and low-income voters. We’ve mobilized thousands of people to get to the polls. And we’re doing it again this year.
We believe it is vital for service providers to take the next step and turn your commitments, experience, and knowledge of the issues into nonpartisan electoral action.
Whether the races are for local, state, or federal offices, educate yourselves about what is at stake in this election. Find out about the issues and the candidates. Talk with friends and colleagues. Encourage folks to get out and vote – and do so yourself!
The opportunity is at hand. Together, we can make a difference – just as we have in the past.
For out more about Vote For Homes! and how you can get involved!