Decision 17: Shelters encouraging homeless to vote

As the election date looms, shelters around the country are encouraging those who are homeless to enrol to vote.

However many feel their voice doesn't count.

A waterfront view, just minutes from Parliament, there's a makeshift shelter a young man calls home. Despite his challenges he's enrolled to vote because he wants to see change.

"You see a lot of people sad, depressed, don't know what to do with their life," he says.

He's interested in politicians who would help people in similar situations to his.

"[They should] probably get out into the community a bit more," he says.

Shelters like the one in Wellington are helping to enrol their guests with the help of the Electoral Commission.

Don O'Neil has slept on the streets himself and has been a guest at the Wellington Night Shelter several times in the past decade. Now he runs the place.

"When you don't have pride in yourself you don't really feel that anything that you do matters," he says.

He says about 20 percent of the shelter's 45 clients are signed up, and given a lesson on the basics.

"What an election is, none of them will know what MMP [is]," he says.

To enrol you need to supply a postal address, but mail can be sent to a relative, a shelter or other social service group.

And there are other reasons people are disengaged.

"They feel like they don't matter in society, you know, they're part of the numbers that don't have any voice," Mr O'Neil says.

The 2013 Census figures show about 40,000 people in New Zealand fall under the broader term of homelessness, with 4000 literally sleeping on the streets.

Some shelters Newshub spoke to say they usually throw a lot of resources at helping their clients enrol to vote but say this year resources are so stretched they've had limited time to do so.

One woman has been homeless for over four months and has a message for politicians.

"We may be a bit rough around the edges and all that but we're still Kiwis, look after us," she says.

The Electoral Commission says they're working with several groups to ensure the homeless have an equal voice.

Newshub.

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