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Being homeless is not an issue when exercising one’s right to vote at elections, but many homeless people are deterred because they may not have a fixed postal address.
For decades, homeless people have been neglected by politicians. But now a charity in Glasgow is ensuring those experiencing homelessness are encouraged to make their voices heard by voting in next month’s General Election.
In the run up to the elections, Glasgow’s City Mission has hosted hustings of candidates in Glasgow Central. The participants were largely made up of city residents affected by homelessness.
All five candidates for the Glasgow Central seat at Westminster participated at the Hustings and were informed of the strifes and struggles that affect homeless people in the city.
The Glasgow City Mission has issued a rallying call which aims to amplify the voices of people excluded from voting and politics and hosted a straw poll of Glaswegians most affected by homelessness and poverty during the hustings session. The Labour Party (18 votes) pipped the SNP (12 votes) to first place. The Conservatives had one (2 spoilt ballots), whilst the Greens and LibDems failed to muster any support from the voters.
Glasgow City Mission Chief Executive Grant Campbell said: “We need to treat people as equals and let them ask questions the way they want to and force politicians to spend face-to-face time with them. When you're making decisions, remember this room.
“Glasgow City Mission sees about 200 people each day in the city centre, and while homelessness applications are down five per cent, use of their night shelter over winter was up 10 per cent,” said Campbell.
Mr Campbell said the hustings, which Glasgow City Mission also held during the referendum last year, were important to give the homeless a voice.
He added: "We have a responsibility to challenge those who are in power to listen and act. We all have a responsibility to question and participate and vote.”
Set up in 1826, Glasgow City Mission is the world’s first city mission. The shelter and refuge provides practical care to over 200 homeless and impoverished adults every day, offering advice, food and a range of vocational workshops and courses to assist service users.
Anas Sarwar, the sitting MP in Glasgow Central for Labour attacked big businesses who didn't pay taxes and the big six energy firms, as well as ending the so-called bedroom tax and setting up an anti-poverty fund in Scotland. He said: "I'm fighting for change - I'm the change candidate."
Alison Thewliss, a Glasgow City councillor who is standing for the SNP, added: "A vote for the SNP is a vote to change the cosy Westminster system. We want to see a fairer Scotland and a more progressive Scotland."
The Conservatives' Simon Bone added: "Yes, the last five years have been pretty bad. Yes, there's been cuts. But now hopefully, things will get better."
Scottish Green candidate Cass MacGregor said: "If you don't vote, you don't get a say in what's going on."
Chris Young of the LibDems said: "There's no magic wand - money doesn't grow on trees. There are practical things we can do. I really believe you should be compassionate and listen and make policies that work."
The General Election will take place on Thursday 7 May 2015. Local and Mayoral elections are also taking place in some places on that day.
To be able to vote you must register with your local authority by Monday 20 April 2015.
You can register to vote in the UK if you are:
• resident (usually live in the UK), and
• 16 or over (but you will not be able to vote until you are 18)
• a British or Irish citizen
• and vote at elections to local authorities, devolved legislatures and the European Parliament. However, EU citizens are NOT eligible to vote at the General Election.
Convicted prisoners CANNOT vote in any election, but those on remand and civil prisoners CAN vote provided they are on the register.
You can register to vote if you have no fixed address. This could be because you are homeless, staying in a hostel or night shelter, in prison on remand or a patient in a mental health hospital.
To register, you must be resident in the UK and 16 years or over and you must be a British or Irish citizen.
You also qualify to register if you are a citizen of a country of the:
• European Union
• Commonwealth and you either don't need permission to stay or have leave to enter or remain in the UK,
You must make 'declaration of local connection'. This is a statement that you make to a local electoral office to say where you spend most of your time.
You can get a form to apply from the electoral registration office of your local council. You'll need to provide details of your name, date of birth and National Insurance number. You may be asked to provide other proof of identity such as a passport if you don't have an NI number.
A poll card can be sent to an address you name. A day centre, hostel or friend may be willing to receive post for you. If you don't have a postal address you can use, your local electoral office can tell you which polling station to attend to vote.
To vote in a General Election, you have to be 18 or over and registered to vote. Irish nationals can vote in a General Election, but other European nationals cannot.
The Electoral Commission has information on who is entitled to vote in a General Election.
You can register even if you are in temporary accommodation, if you do not have a permanent address or even if you have no fixed address.
Most people can register to vote online in just a few minutes, provided you know your National Insurance number and date of birth. If you cannot provide the NI number and date of birth you may have to contact your electoral registration office.
Those who prefer paper can register by downloading a form, completing it and sending it to your local authority.
You can still register to vote even if you do not have a fixed address. This may be because you are:
• a patient in a mental health hospital
• a homeless person
• a person remanded in custody.