America's homeless: The unheard voices of the presidential election

Hazel, a resident at the reStart Inc homeless shelter in Kansas City.
Hazel, a resident at the reStart Inc homeless shelter in Kansas City. © Sam Ball, FRANCE 24

More than half a million Americans are estimated to be homeless and Covid-19 is threatening to force many more who have lost jobs or income onto the streets. Most, however, are unlikely to vote. As part of our series of reports on America's forgotten voters, FRANCE 24 went to Kansas City, Missouri, to find out why.


At a shelter operated by reStart Inc in Kansas City, those who would otherwise be sleeping on the streets can come to get a free meal and a warm bed, and managers say demand is on the rise.

"Particularly we're seeing a very large increase in demand for our family emergency shelter. We have seen the number of families calling triple over the course of the pandemic," restart CEO Stephanie Boyer told FRANCE 24.

But ahead of an election where every vote could count, the chances are that few here will be casting a ballot, despite the best efforts of staff at the shelter.

"We have actually hosted two rounds of registration to have people living here vote," said Boyer. "We haven't really seen a large number of people be that interested."

Turnout among homeless people in US presidential elections is estimated at just 10 percent, put down in part to many states requiring a mailing address to register to vote.

Although those in shelters like restart can use their address there to register, some simply feel casting a ballot will make little difference.

"Sadly I think all politicians are corrupt in their own way, shape or form and that's why I'm not going to vote," restart resident Hazel told FRANCE 24. "It's just, yeah I understand that we have to vote and it's for the future or whatever but I don't know. I mean I'm homeless as sh*t. I'm trying to actually deal with my own issues."

Click on the video player above to watch the full report.

Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morning