Losing your home doesn't mean losing your right to vote.
Many of the residents of Hazelnut Grove and Tent City 3, homeless camps in Portland, OR, and Seattle, WA, respectively, are registered voters. In the weeks leading up to the election, these voters discussed the election cycle, and what they want to see from the political system, with photographer Annabel Clark and writer Candice Pires. Clark described the political environment at the camps in an interview with Refinery29.
“It really is a microcosm,” Clark told Refinery29 by phone. “People ask me…'Are they mostly liberal? How did they vote?' Well, it’s as different as anyone who lives in a house. Their opinions are across the board.”
In the United States, you do not need to have a traditional home or address to vote. Though registration documents require voters to list an address, a number of court cases around the country in the 1980s and '90s determined that that requirement couldn’t be used to deprive homeless individuals of their right to vote.
Residency requirements can vary by state, but homeless individuals have the right to list a semi-permanent address or place where they would return to, such as a day shelter, as their residence, and the federal voter registration form allows for voters without an address to mark on a map where they live. In Oregon, where all ballots are submitted by mail and at drop-off locations, homeless residents can list the office of the county clerk as their mailing address.
Clark and Pires visited Hazelnut Grove and Tent City 3 in August and October. The two homeless communities are different — Clark described Hazelnut Grove, population 26, as more of a neighborhood, where people have built little dwellings and maintain a sense of community. On the other hand, Tent City 3 in Seattle, is a semi-permanent camp that moves every few months. About 100 people live there. Unsurprisingly, housing was a major concern for residents of both camps.
“The issues that seemed the biggest were housing. I mean, obviously,” Clark said. “Rent, housing crisis. Even discrimination, because quite a few of them, the fact that they’re homeless is directly tied to them being discriminated against one way or another.” She said that she saw a number of LGBTQ and trans individuals at the camps.
Clark said she thought it was important to find a common ground between her subjects and viewers, particularly in light of the divisive election.
“Their stories are as different as anyone else’s, and I think we make too many generalizations,” she said. “There were a lot of misconceptions that I even had, and just seeing the variety of their stories and their opinions — I think people should take the time to get to know them a little more.”
Ahead, hear their stories and learn what issues are bringing them to the polls.