”Our opinion matters, whether we're homeless or not” – Tessa gets registered to vote in general election

19th June 2024

Ahead of the upcoming general election, BBC Reporter Simon Thake wanted to find out about voting with no fixed address, and the barriers people experiencing homelessness face whilst trying to register to vote. A few days ago, he visited The Archer Project to interview Tessa and Suzanne about this.


Tessa says she has never voted before but intends to for the first time on 4th July. “My say is still my say, my opinion’s still my opinion, whether I'm housed or homeless.” Tessa has been volunteering and receiving support at The Archer Project over the past year, after going from living “in a house for 16 years to nothing” which she describes as “soul destroying.”

People experiencing homelessness can register to vote using an address where they spend a substantial part of their time, so Tessa has been able to register using The Archer Project’s address.


But even for people with accommodation, there can be complications. “I can assure you there’s people that don't know their postcode.” Tessa explained: “They’ve not got that paperwork with it on because they've lost it… They won’t have even seen their National Insurance number.”

A lack of address isn’t the only barrier in registering. Progression Support Worker and Peer Mentor, Suzanne Nimmo guided Tessa through the process. The online registration form repeatedly asked for the same information, and some fields didn’t work, so the information had to be added manually. They had to get a clear photo of a signature to upload on the website, which required access to a camera phone and internet connection. This is yet another barrier to registering, as Suzanne said: “Not everyone will want to sit down for this long and do this.”


Regardless of the obstacles whilst getting registered, Tessa said ”It’s worth it… Our opinion matters, whether we're homeless or not… We are still human… I’ll be spreading the word that you can vote [if you're] homeless.”


Joe Logan, Archer Project Fundraising Manager, was also interviewed by Ellie Colton on BBC Radio Sheffield’s breakfast show on Monday. “Experiencing homelessness – it’s a chaotic environment. When you're worrying about where your next meal is going to come from, where you're going to sleep… it's difficult to think big picture, which is obviously what voting is.”


When asked about the main barriers to voting, Joe spoke about knowledge around voting, the difficulties of the registration process, and “a disconnect where people experiencing homelessness might think ‘all politicians are the same, they don't care about us, we're not in the thought process... nothing changes anyway so what's the point in voting?’

Joe pointed out: “When you have an ID or voter registered certificate, you might forget it… Boris Johnson earlier on this year forgot his ID when he went in to vote. And he had presumably a decent kip the night before, whereas someone who's been on the street won't have that.”

With regards to what could help mitigate these barriers, Joe added: "Build more affordable housing and control rents; The further people can progress away from the street, the more likely they are to be able to engage in politics and feel that they are a part of the community and a part of society, and that their voice can be heard.”


Finally, Joe spoke on the atmosphere at The Project: “We encourage everyone to register to vote. Whether it be a direct ‘I'm interested in politics’ or talking about the general themes of politics, there's definitely an interest… The overall feeling is that there needs to be more lived experience voices and the only way that can happen is by people voting.”


The voices of those with lived experience of homelessness are key in making the changes needed to end homelessness. Make your voice heard by voting in the general election on 4th July. To find out more, visit: www.gov.uk/how-to-vote


You can listen to the BBC Radio Sheffield interview at: www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p0j0pcmc [1:07:37 – 1:15:19]


To help us deliver life changing support to homeless and at-risk adults in Sheffield, please share this story, and consider making a donation to our Project.

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