CITYWIDE — Every City Council candidate has an opinion on solving homelessness problems in the city by the sea.
Questions about the homeless come up in forums, at meetings, and in campaign mailers.
But for all their political weight, Santa Monica’s most vulnerable population will likely place few votes at the polls on Tuesday.
There were 742 homeless individuals in Santa Monica as of this year’s annual homeless count, sponsored by City Hall. In a city where winners and losers are often separated by a thousand votes, and in a campaign that’s too close to call, that’s not an insignificant number.
Miracle McKenzie, 23, has plenty of political opinions.
“Instead of putting more money in prisons, they should be trying to put more money in education,” she said, standing outside the OPCC, a homeless services provider.
McKenzie is from Alaska, where she’s registered to vote. She’s homeless but she just got to Santa Monica last month. She won’t be voting on Tuesday because, she said, it’s difficult to get the materials and the information.
McKenzie feels disenfranchised by the political system.
“When it comes to election time they pretend to be so nice, they go out and feed the homeless and things like that, then after they get elected they never come back, they never help,” she said.”They always try to butter up the cake, but when you try to eat the cake it still tastes like (expletive).”
John Maceri, executive director at the OPCC, said that some groups are trying to help people like McKenzie get their political voice back.
“The way that it works here at OPCC for our client and registration program is that if they are set up in housing, then they register that as their address or if they frequent an access center, they can use that as a voter registration address,” he said.
Courts have ruled that a homeless person may register to vote at a location they say is the place where they spend most of their time, according to the California Secretary of the State’s Guide to Voter Registration Drives.
“The person must provide a description of the location that is clear enough for the elections official to establish that person’s right to vote in a particular precinct,” the guide says. “This ensures accurate elections materials can be provided to this voter. In these instances, a mailing address needs to be provided in order for the voter to receive election materials.”
Maceri said that over the years various volunteer organizations have encouraged OPCC clients to register to vote.
“The voter registration programs have generally been well received,” he said. “Of course its easier to get people registered if they have semi-permanent housing, but even the clients we have that live on the streets have responded positively to the drives.”
The Daily Press spoke with several homeless Santa Monicans on Friday but couldn’t find any who plan to vote on Tuesday.
One man, who declined to give his name, said he’s been asked to register but hasn’t.
“It’s too much a pain in the butt,” he said.
Another, a former Marine, isn’t registered because, he said, it’s all about who has the most money.
The Daily Press did find one registered homeless voter. He declined to give his name and said that he won’t vote on Tuesday.