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In downtown Minneapolis, being homeless doesn't mean you lose your right to vote

People Serving People accompanies homeless individuals to the polls to confirm its shelter as their place of residence.
Tegan Lecheler, volunteer, Rinal Ray, Interim Executive Director People Serving People, and Nicque Mabrey, Community Engagement Manager at People Serving People.

Tegan Lecheler, volunteer, Rinal Ray, Interim Executive Director People Serving People, and Nicque Mabrey, Community Engagement Manager at People Serving People.

On a sunny Election Day morning in downtown Minneapolis, music echoes outside the lobby of People Serving People. A table filled with candy, vote cookies, and voting stickers is spread out.

Across from the table sits a young woman named Kody. She strokes her pregnant belly as she enjoys a sip of coffee and engages in a conversation with staff member Nicque Mabrey.

The two ladies are talking about why it’s important to vote. Mabrey works as a Community Engagement Manager at People Serving People, a family homeless shelter located on South 3rd Street. Part of her job is to get the families living in the shelter involved in civic engagement.

As people pass by the lobby, she offers them snacks and asks what’s their voting plan. Kody occasionally chimes in, encouraging others to vote and shares that she too, will vote today.

"I am going with a group of people at 11 o’clock. I already know who I’m voting for president,” Kody said.

The 23-year-old's journey to homelessness started in 2017, when she developed a drug problem. With her apartment lease not renewed, she lost her home, and after moving to her aunt's and uncle's in north Minneapolis, was asked to leave as her problem worsened.

After staying on and off with friends, she went to the Salvation Army for help, and when she discovered she was pregnant, the Salvation Army referred her to People Serving People.

Now five months sober, the mother-to-be says she’s not only voting for herself but her unborn baby, who will be biracial.

"It’s extremely important to me to not have to raise a child that has to fear the people that are elected and hired to protect and serve us because they are not protecting and serving us. Hopefully, with this election that will change,” she said.

The plan is for staff and volunteers to walk residents to the polls. In the state of Minnesota, if you are homeless, you can register to vote using the location of where you sleep as your address.

You just need a shelter staff member to go with you to confirm where you are living.

“We’ll be walking to our polling place – Ward 3, Precinct 9," Mabrey said. "It's a nine-to-ten-minute walk from People Serving People."

Kody

Kody

The walk to the polls is being led by Mabrey and volunteer Tegan Lecheler. Since August, Lecheler and Mabrey started an early “Get out to Vote” program to help the folks at the shelter.

Since early voting ended, she’s helped about 30 people vote. Getting people who are experiencing homelessness out to vote is personal to Mabrey.

“I experienced homelessness and housing instability at age 4 and 19. No one helped facilitate my voting as a young person experiencing housing instability. It didn’t feel like I counted and it didn’t feel like my voice mattered. I know experiences like that stick with us,” she said.

She says healthy democracy takes a community effort. Helping others exercise their right to vote is an act of love and solidarity.

“It’s important to me because until people of struggle are at the center of solutions, systems will remain as they are. We’ve seen in 2020, that’s not acceptable for folks of struggle, that’s not acceptable for any of us,” Mabrey said.

Kody echoes her sentiment.

“There’s not a lot of homeless representation in anything. What Nicque does here, advocating to vote, giving information, making sure people get to the voting booth, and having a secure way. She’s doing a lot and I’m glad that somebody is willing to come in and educate so that we can make our voices heard too,” Kody said.

Making her voice heard not just for the nation, but her child’s future.

Mabrey and staff at People Serving People will continue the walks until the polls close at 8 p.m.

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