Cody at Stewpot

Cody, a junior political science major, received a public service internship award from the Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility this summer. She will be working with the Stewpot in downtown Dallas. She plans to attend several City Council meetings and to learn about the public policy of homelessness and how it is changing in Dallas, with the opening of the new and nontraditional Bridge Homeless Assistance Center. She hopes to help the Stewpot understand the attitude of the city toward the homeless population and the reflections of that attitude in city policy.

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Every vote counts

Monitoring City Council meetings has turned out to be a little slower/less exciting than expected. It seems that the City is letting the Bridge run for a while before addressing more homeless issues. Furthermore, because Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance (MDHA) is the official authority on homelessness, the Department of Environmental and Health Services, which usually deals with homelessness, has little information to share. So I am turning my attention to another aspect of my internship with the Stewpot.

I will work with the lead caseworker at the Stewpot to organize a small series of voter registration and education workshops for clients. The Stewpot has done some voter registration in the past, but not this year. With this being such an exciting and important year as far as voting goes, I was a little perplexed. Turns out, the Stewpot doesn’t really register the homeless for the purpose of voting, but for the purpose of a valid form of state identification. A voter registration card helps a homeless individual establish an identity both personally and legally.

In my workshops I’ll have voter registration cards and information about voting rights and the election in general. Most people who register to vote at the Stewpot will use the Stewpot’s service of offering a physical address for the homeless to use. This means that they will vote in that precinct and I can provide information about early voting, polling places and candidates (in a fair and balanced manner, of course).

I’ve already had a couple people balk at my intention to register the homeless to vote, which follows with the stereotype of homeless as undeserving of basic rights that all citizens should enjoy. This is an election year when every vote counts – from the presidential down to the local races – and everyone deserves to participate. The Stewpot address falls in House District 108, and Democrat Emil Reichstadt is running against incumbent Republican Dan Branch. This is a race that could swing the Texas State House from Republican to Democrat control. This means that those candidates should be looking to every voter for support, including the homeless who register in the district.

The voter workshops will not be for a few weeks, but in the coming week I’ll visit with Mike Faenza at the Bridge. Faenza is director of MDHA and has been extremely active in homeless policy in Texas. Even without talking with him, a visit to the Bridge is bound to be interesting.

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