Daniel Farquharson registered to vote for the first time ever Wednesday, at the age of 58. Homeless since 2007, the Quincy native said his top issue in the upcoming city election is deeply personal. “Get more affordable housing,” said Farquharson, who was living in a shelter even before he recently lost his job. “When I was working, I didn’t make enough to afford a decent place.” Farquharson said he hasn’t decided whether he will give his vote for mayor to Councilor John R. Connolly or state Representative Martin J. Walsh but said he was satisfied they prevailed in the 12-candidate preliminary election. “The two that they finally settled on would have been my pick,” he said. Conventional wisdom says Boston elections are won and lost in high-turnout neighborhoods such as West Roxbury and South Boston, but advocates for the homeless are working to ensure that voters with no permanent address also make their voices heard. At a Wednesday afternoon voter registration drive at the Pine Street Inn, Lyndia Downie, the shelter’s executive director, said voting has a symbolic as well as practical value for the shelter’s residents. “For many of our folks, they’re feeling very isolated and feeling forgotten about,” Downie said, “and getting ready to vote means they’re thinking about being part of a community again.”
Downie said the shelter has held registration drives for each major election in the past seven or eight years, registering an average of 100 voters. It has partnered for the effort with other homeless service organizations including Rosie’s Place, St. Francis House, and the Women’s Lunch Place.
Downie said many of the homeless hope the government will address issues important in their own lives.
“Housing is the first one, always,” she said. “Jobs are second. I think we hear about health care, because a lot of people that come here have had a catastrophic illness.”
Dozens of men crowded around tables in a spartan, locker-lined common room to sign up Wednesday.
Downey told the men their circumstances should not prevent them from voting. They can use the shelter’s address to register, she said, and those with criminal records have the right to vote under state law.
Noah Mank came to the drive, but he didn’t need to register. Mank, 27, said registering to vote was one of the first things he did after coming to the shelter three months ago.
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