No address? Voting while homeless is challenging in U.S. election

The pandemic has forced many shelters to reduce their hours or even close, making mail pickups even harder, she said.

Some local laws allow people to register their address as a park bench or an intersection, as does a federal form accepted in most states, said Eric Tars, legal director at the National Homelessness Law Center.

But locations that require identification to vote can complicate the process, he said.

People who are homeless may not be able to obtain IDs or may lose them, he said.

“ID requirements are a barrier,” he said.

Tars and his colleagues turned to voting rights this year for the first time in several years, collaborating with the National Coalition for the Homeless and Trust Law, the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s legal pro bono network, to create a guide on local voting rights and requirements across the country.

The objective was to answer key questions for those who are chronically homeless and those who are newly homeless due to the pandemic, Tars said.

“If I lose my home after the registration deadline, can I still vote? Or if this person is living doubled up or in a motel, can they use that address to vote? Or if they’re on the street or living in a car, how do they register?”

For people on Washington’s streets, getting answers to such questions have provided them with a sense of being included in the political process.

“Initially, a lot of people said, ‘My vote doesn’t matter,'” said Perez-Brennan. “But we had this space to talk, and some did change their minds to say: ‘I do have political power. Let’s do this.'”

Pathways to Housing DC now plans to include voter registration as part of its standard intake process with clients. (Reporting by Carey L. Biron //

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