At Homeless Shelter, Women Weigh in on Election

By Emma Seslowsky

The current election is like betting on horses at the race track for Irene, a 52-year-old experiencing homelessness in Boston.

“I asked someone which horses they were gonna bet because they looked kind of confused…And they said to me, ‘Oh, we’re gonna bet his birthday. Maybe it’ll bring us luck.’ I feel like that is the same gamble when people say they’re gonna vote for Trump.”

Red and blue graphs of voting demographics fill up our timelines, news outlets, and screens. The women’s vote, the African American vote, and the Muslim vote are broken down in stats and infographics. But how about the votes of people experiencing homelessness?

Irene was eager to have her voice and her political opinions heard.

“I may be homeless, but I still have a mind. I can still see what’s going on,” said Irene, who was sitting at a table alone, finishing her coffee at the Women’s Lunch Place, a shelter in the basement of the Church of the Covenant on Newbury Street.

The day shelter serves as a safe haven for women, a place where they can seek help anonymously and with dignity, which is why they all chose to withhold their last names.

Coming from an abusive home, Irene said she wants a candidate who is going to put mothers and children first.

“I would like to see my tax dollars go to daycare teachers and for children to stay in school the whole day, freeing the mother to work,” she said. Irene aspires to be a science teacher for young girls experiencing homelessness.

Guests filled the Women’s Lunch Place that morning, not all experiencing homelessness, but all in need of some financial assistance, a safe space, a shower, or simply a hot meal.

Les, a poll worker at the 4th Ward, 2nd Precinct, and a registered independent, is one of the shelter’s guests. She is an undecided voter and understands why some choose not to vote at all.

“That’s up to them. So far the candidates haven’t really gotten on the issues either. They’re more attacking each other so maybe that’s why they don’t wanna vote.”

Most important to Les is a president who feels like a leader, a feeling she has not had since President Roosevelt.

“Well…Trump started to [feel like a leader], but then I don’t know. They’re attacking each other all the time so I can’t really say.”

An older woman with a gray pixie cut named Paula was sitting next to Les doing a crossword puzzle, commenting under her breath. The murmurs grew louder until she finally interjected.

“It sucks! I’ve been in politics all my life and it’s the worst I’ve ever seen it. It’s even worse than when Nixon was in office. I’ve never seen so much nonsense,” she said.

She foresees a future of young adults without a college education as tuition continues to increase.

“If I was a student now? Forget it. I’d look for something else other than college. When I went back in the 70s, a lot of the schools were tuition free,” she noted.

Paula voted last Saturday in early voting that took place at the Boston Public Library in Copley Square. She refrained from sharing specifics from the voting booth, but was quick to express her feelings about people who do not vote.

“If you don’t register to vote, then shut your mouth. You have nothing to complain about because unless you’re gonna vote to try and do something about it…I don’t wanna hear it. Shut up,” she said.

Irene, the woman who likened a vote for Trump to betting on a not-so-lucky horse, echoed the need to vote.

“If we don’t make ourselves heard, how is our democracy going to work for us? Why even have a democracy? We might as well have a….dictatorship!” she said.

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