How Montreal shelters are helping homeless people get access to voting

As many Canadians head to the advance polls to vote in the federal election early, Elections Canada is trying to reach out to potential voters who aren't often talked about: people experiencing homelessness. 

Robert Brunet was homeless for six months, during which time he stayed at the Maison du Père shelter on René-Lévesque Boulevard East. 

"[Homeless people] listen to TV and radio, and they have political opinions — and they want to vote, that's for sure," Brunet said. 

Now, he works for Elections Canada to help let people without a home know they can register to vote, even without a fixed address. 

Maison du Père is one of the locations homeless people can register as their address, with a confirmation of residence letter, so they can vote. 

Sam Watts is the CEO of the Welcome Hall Mission, another location people who are homeless can register as their address. 

CBC

"People who are experiencing homelessness are just like you and I," Watts said. "They have perspectives and they should have the right to vote." 

Watts said as of Sunday, about 50 people had registered to vote. He's hoping to get upwards of several hundred people to exercise their democratic right by Oct. 21, the day of the election. 

On election day, a polling station will be set up inside Maison du Père for those registered there. 

Brunet says this helps people experiencing homelessness avoid the sometimes intimidating prospect of standing in line with the general public. 

"For certain people experiencing homelessness, it can be uncomfortable to the point that it becomes an obstacle for them to exercise their right to vote," Brunet said. 

Voters coming from the Welcome Hall Mission will go to a nearby polling place, and staff can help them get there to cast their ballot.