The Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, is urging homeless people to register to vote ahead of the upcoming local elections.
The last day to join the electoral register ahead of next month is Tuesday 17 April, and many homeless people and rough sleepers remain unaware that they can participate.
The Mayor is calling for widespread registration over the final weekend before the deadline to enable as many homeless people as possible to exercise their democratic right. He is also backing national charity Crisis’ campaign to increase voter registration among homeless people, including those who have no fixed or permanent address.
There are an estimated 1,200 people living in statutory temporary accommodation across Greater Manchester and local authorities can play a key role in increasing awareness of residents’ rights. In addition, those living in hostels or bed and breakfasts in the city-region are also entitled join the electoral register.
Andy said: “An important part of our drive to help those sleeping rough is to make sure they have a voice. That is why I am supporting the campaign to encourage them to register to vote.
“Homelessness needs to be a major issue at these local elections. It is a crisis unfolding before our eyes and all parties need to explain what they will do to tackle it.
“I am as determined as ever to end the need for rough sleeping in Greater Manchester by 2020 and we are making real progress. But we need to keep the issue at the top of the agenda.”
Local voluntary organisations already engaged with homeless people have a significant role to play in enabling registrations. Crisis, the national charity for homeless people, is raising awareness of the democratic rights of homeless people and the processes required to enable voter participation.
Matt Downie, Director of Policy and Campaigns at Crisis, said: “Everyone who is able to vote – whether they are homeless or not – should have the opportunity to do so. But often it can be a real challenge without a permanent address, and many people without one aren’t aware of their options.
“If you are someone without a permanent address you can register to vote from an address where you would be living if it were not for your current circumstances, or an address where you are staying temporarily or have lived at in the past.
“People with no fixed address can give details of where they spend a lot of their time during the day or at night, such as a day service, night shelter, or an address nearest to, for example, a park bench, a bus shelter or the doorway to a high-street store.”
Paul Dennett, Salford City Mayor and GMCA portfolio holder for housing, planning and homelessness, added: “It is quick and easy to register to vote online and you can also download a Register to Vote form and post it to your local authority. Local councils and voluntary organisations across Greater Manchester should provide all the support they can to homeless people wishing to join the electoral register.
“Voting in elections is your chance to make your voice heard about important issues, and homeless people deserve to play their part in the democratic process.”
In January the Greater Manchester’s Homelessness Action Network outlined a new 10-year vision to tackle all forms of homelessness. The Network was set up by Andy Burnham following his election last May and is a partnership of charities, businesses, local authorities, the public sector, people with experience of homelessness, the faith sector and other Greater Manchester organisations.
In December the Mayor’s Homelessness Fund, an important part of Greater Manchester’s efforts to end rough sleeping, announced a running total of £135,000.
To make a donation or find out more about the Mayor’s Homelessness Fund, visit: https://www.homelessfund.co.uk
There is more information on how to register to vote at www.crisis.org.uk/vote.