Mobile Polling Station Comes to the Calgary Drop-In Centre

185 Cast Their Vote at Calgary Drop-In Centre’s Polling Station, Supported by CHF’s Client Action Committee Members

Hand of a person casting a ballot at a polling station during voting.

Calgarians experiencing homelessness face many barriers in their lives, and many of those barriers prevent them from voting. These barriers were addressed during last month’s provincial election thanks to an on-site polling station hosted by the Calgary Drop-In and Rehab Centre (the DI), and support from Calgary Homeless Foundation’s Client Action Committee (CAC).

The CAC is a group of people who have experienced homelessness. They speak from profound experience when they advise CHF on the best ways forward. In their work to leverage the voice of lived experience, the CAC identified two major barriers to voting. These are: the lack of suitable identification (ID), and the location of the polling station.

By partnering with Calgary’s largest homeless shelter, the DI, and working with Elections Alberta, they were able to remove both barriers.

Elections Alberta addressed the ID barrier by offering an extensive list of authorized ID options that are relevant to people experiencing homelessness. Not only that, those still without appropriate identification were able to submit an attestation form with the help of shelter staff, that once completed, was used as proof of identity for the purpose of voting. In addition, placing a mobile polling station right in the DI eliminated the location barrier for many of Calgary’s homeless population.

In all, 185 people voted at the DI mobile polling station on April 16th—about 50 people more than at the last municipal election 18 months prior.

“As far as we know, the DI is the only shelter in Canada that has a mobile polling station,” said Michael Grant, a CHF System Planner who works closely with the CAC.

The CAC also removed another important barrier after finding out that people experiencing homelessness reported not being familiar with candidates and parties. The CAC invited all candidates in Calgary-Buffalo (the riding where the DI and most of Calgary’s shelters are located) to meet voters at the DI in the days leading up to the election. CAC members identified questions that clients could ask candidates, and they also encouraged both candidates and clients to engage with each other to talk about the issues that mattered to them.

The mobile polling station was promoted at other shelters in the city, through the distribution of an informational booklet, poster and website to encourage people experiencing homelessness to come to the DI and vote.