Being homeless is the most horrible thing you have to live through. You’re invisible. You don’t have an address, which makes it difficult to get a job, or get mail. Becoming homeless feels like getting erased.
The Democracy Voucher program made me feel like becoming visible in our local democracy. It made feel like I was valued. I got to donate to a candidate who made clear my voice mattered. It was huge.
When you have nothing, the vouchers made me feel like I had value within a community. It gave me the opportunity to make a decision and contribution that other folks could make without giving it a second thought. I had never donated to a campaign before, but vouchers gave me an opportunity to participate. Those little things that still keep you connected to the community as a whole is everything.
When I donated my Democracy Vouchers to the candidate of my choice, I made sure to do it in-person and get a photo. It was that important to me. Even though he didn’t win, I felt like a part of process. You don’t get much of that at all when you are homeless.
Though I am now living in a home, I still fight for my homeless friends. And giving those vouchers was one way I could fight for them, knowing I could use these vouchers to advocate for the type of policy I wanted to see. These vouchers gave me a voice.
Susan Russell is an affordable housing advocate, formerly homeless, and a Real Change vendor.