At From His Throne Ministries in Little Rock, Stephen Bostic transformed from being politically minded to politically active when he filled out his voter registration form.
On Wednesday, church members partnered with the Arkansas Homeless Coalition to help homeless or near homeless people register to vote.
Volunteers armed with stacks of voter registration forms in English and Spanish positioned themselves near the front door, addressing whoever walked through.
While filling out his registration form, Bostic described his political leanings. Not a Democrat or a Republican, he forms his opinions on a candidate by candidate basis.
He liked Bill Clinton — Hillary, too — and he thinks change needs to happen at the Little Rock Board of Directors level.
“I think they need to try to get housing for us, [rather] than just run us off,” Bostic said.
Sitting across from Bostic, Glen Graham agreed. He’s a groundskeeper at From His Throne Ministries and leans Democrat, he said.
Graham filled out the registration paperwork Wednesday so he could support candidates who are willing to “be more open minded” to the seriousness of the homelessness problem in Little Rock.
Over the past several months, volunteers through various homelessness prevention groups have registered nearly 350 homeless people around Little Rock to vote, including more than 50 people Wednesday, said Courtney Emerson, co-chairman of the coalition. And the vast majority of them will be new voters, come election day, she added.
Voting gives a person a sense of dignity, said Sandra Wilson, president of the coalition’s board.
“They’ve been so ostracized and really meant to feel totally not a part of society,” she said.
“They’ve got the same thoughts and dreams and hopes for their lives like we do,” Melody Malat said.
She runs the ministry with her husband. The church recently moved to its new location at 2501 S. Arch St., which has purple and teal walls and the persistent scent of brewed coffee.
Plus, Wilson said, some homeless people with felony convictions assume that they’re automatically disqualified from voting, which is not true.
Arkansas law allows convicted felons to have their voting rights restored under certain conditions.
The person must provide proof to the county clerk that he has been discharged from probation or parole, paid all fees or satisfied all terms of imprisonment and paid all applicable costs, fines or restitution.
It’s not enough to hand a homeless person a voter registration form and assume all will be taken care of, Wilson said.
The coalition works with legal professionals to help people seal people’s criminal records or handle outstanding fines. Volunteers on Wednesday had a list of shelter addresses for people to use on their registration forms.
The actual filing of the forms is handled by volunteers. When voting begins, Wilson said, the coalition will organize transportation to the polls.
Amy Petersen said she’s not really a “political person,” but she realized there’s a lack of voices to advocate for homeless people in the voting booth.
Petersen moved to Arkansas from Texas about 2½ years ago. When she got to the Natural State, she slept in tents and on the street.
Through the ministry, Petersen found a place to live and got her driver’s license. In April, she’ll celebrate a year at her job.
As she spoke, her fiance, Andrew “Screech” Lowery appeared at her side. Though he “doesn’t like politicians, in general,” Lowery said he’d likely register to vote, too.
The couple, both formerly homeless, soon to be voters, were planning to get married come Sunday, Petersen said with a wide smile.
Print Headline: Groups register indigent to vote; Church, coalition aid the homeless