By Joshua Kanary Community Organizer
The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless with help from Vote Today Ohio and the NAACP transported nearly 250 homeless people to the Board of Elections during the first week of early voting. In addition to the large number of people they transported to the polls, other shelters and homeless people to the polls, and by Election Day nearly half of all the people in the shelter system voted. Even before November 4, staff at the Homeless Grapevine could see there would be a huge turn out and naturally wondered who homeless people were voting for. Thus, they held an unscientific straw poll of the homeless population at several drop-ins, meal sites and shelters around Cleveland.
Support for Obama was high with 84% of those voting saying they would vote for the Illinois Senator. Not only was support for Obama high, but support for McCain was extremely low. The 9% that said they were undecided nearly doubled the number that said they voted for McCain.
The issues that were of most concern to homeless voters include creating jobs and housing followed closely by health care. These three issues were the biggest problems that Cleveland’s homeless voters would like to see the new President take on beginning in 2009. Nearly 30% of the voters had been homeless for one year or more. Loss of job was the reason most cited as the cause of their homelessness at 39%. More than half of those surveyed were over 50 years old and 80% were male. Sixty-four percent were African American. An additional 20 people said that they were not going to vote.
The Homeless Grapevine and the publishers of the Homeless Grapevine do not take a stance on either of the candidates. Also, the demographic data collected does not represent the whole of the homeless community. The surveys were conducted at various locations on both the east and west side of Cleveland during the month leading up to the 2008 election and was just a small sampling of a much larger and more diverse whole.
Copyright Homeless Grapevine Issue #86 in November 2008 Cleveland Ohio.