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Homeless Man Votes For The First Time

How a Homeless Man Found His Voice This Election

By: Rachael Allen

If you’re anything like me, voting in the federal election didn’t exactly fill you with joy. Impatiently standing in line. Marking it with an “X,”  moving on with your day. Voting is a chore, just something we might do if we have time. At least, that’s what I thought...until recently, when my perspective on voting was completely dismantled by someone I’d never expect: a man named Rick, who’s homeless. 

If anyone ever felt voiceless, it was Rick. Between being forcibly ripped from his family as an Indigenous boy caught up in the 60’s Scoop and struggling with homelessness, Rick spent almost his entire life feeling powerless to change his circumstances. “I regarded myself as an invisible, disposable member of society,” he told me. On top of that, like many homeless citizens who have their wallets stolen or damaged on the street, Rick doesn’t have proper ID and would face a maze of bureaucratic hurdles to replace his documents to be eligible to cast a ballot. Yet somehow, Rick still wanted to vote. In fact, he couldn’t wait - he was brimming with excitement. Here’s why. 

Everything changed for him when he successfully fought an unjust eviction notice with a group of his homeless friends. Rick’s eyes lit up as he described how this moment catalyzed a complete “paradigm shift in thinking” for him. He now woke up feeling like “the sky was bigger and there was more oxygen in the air.” For the first time ever, he realized that his voice did matter and that his vote could affect real change. 

Whereas most people dreaded standing in line at the polls, Rick savoured every moment. Although he’s in his late-forties, Rick voted for the first time in his entire life! His eyes teared up with passion telling me that nothing was going to stop him. Not even the fact that he’s currently homeless and didn’t have any way to prove his identity as a Canadian citizen, save for a lone prescription pill bottle. He was so excited to hear that Union Gospel Mission, where he’s currently staying, was hosting voting stations and helping homeless guests with ID - all thanks to generous supporters!

With peace of mind, knowing that the logistical hurdles were taken care of, Rick could focus on the platforms and political issues that were influencing his vote. This election, he cast his ballot for pivotal issues like the environment and Indigenous rights, finally making his voice heard on issues that matter most to him, where he has the most at stake. 

I was literally fighting back tears too, moved with the realization that this is what democracy is all about.  All my life I’ve taken for granted that I’m a citizen of this country with a democratic right to vote. Rick treasures his right to vote like nothing else, so how could I just give mine up? Rick reminded me about the power of my voice. 

Maybe we didn’t run to the polls, as overjoyed as Rick, but I certainly was thinking about him as I lined up to vote on October 21st. I marked my “X” with a renewed sense of passion and hope that in the next election, you do too. 

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