Voter drives target homeless

Published: Jul. 31, 2008 at 12:39 AM HST|Updated: Jul. 31, 2008 at 3:47 PM HST
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Suzanne Leha
Suzanne Leha
Vito Talo
Vito Talo
Barney Ho
Barney Ho

By Zahid Arab - bio | email

KAKAAKO (KHNL) - Among the record number of voters expected to take part in elections this fall may be from an often invisible group.

There is a movement across the nation to register nearly 3.5 million people in the country who drift in and out of homelessness.

We see them on streets, sidewalks, basically everywhere in our community. The homeless may not have a permanent home but they say their voice still counts.

They're making a list and checking it twice. Suzanne Leha is one of about 50 newly registered voters at the Next Step homeless shelter, beaming with the spirit of the red, white of blue down to the shoe.

"Transitional and housing opening up and money being donated and given so it's a big impact to say who we want and who can help us," said Shelter resident Suzanne Leha.

"It's really difficult because of our situation, the way we are living," said Shelter resident Vito Talo.

The struggle of not having a permanent address is what often silences the homeless from voicing their votes, now that's being made simple.

" As long as they carry a permanent state ID or drivers license and as long as they have a legitimate social security number, we can register them to vote," said Organizer Barney Ho.

"Your voice or what you want to ask about, it all matters just as long as you make your vote, if you don't make a vote then nothing else matters," said Talo.

Often ostrisized, the homeless say now is the time to get involved. But if you wait until after the elections, stay silent.

"A lot of them grumble after when it's done " oh well they don't know what they're doing and they should, it's their fault because they didn't even try," said Leha.

Taking action to get involved in elections, for these new voters, the hope is that this simple signup is their way to speak up.

The Next Step shelters sees an average of about 200 residents a day.

Organizers of the voting drive say the hope is to have at least one more before mid-August.