One room in the Jericho Way Resource Center was filled with the sounds of The Young and the Restless on TV playing over a crowd of people sleeping in chairs, the next with dominoes slapping a table. The third room was home to a discussion on how everyone wanted to vote on Issue 4, the casino amendment.
Henry Tilmon, 61, had never voted before Tuesday. He was born in Scott, and when he got old enough to move out, he went to California to work with his brother at a mechanic shop. But when the Rodney King riots broke out in 1992, Tilmon left Los Angeles.
He came back to Little Rock, got arrested on felony drug charges, went to prison and was released in 2009. He's been homeless ever since. Now he spends many days at Jericho Way, a day resource center for the homeless, wishing he was fishing.
Tilmon's plan on Election Day was to get on the bus, head to his voting location and vote on the ballot issues. He's interested in a higher minimum wage and wants casinos nearby. He said someone at the Stewpot, a place in Little Rock where many homeless people go to get meals, helped him register.
"People were asking if I wanted to, so I did," Tilmon said.
Tilmon is one of more than 400 homeless people who have registered to vote during this election cycle. They use local shelters as their places of residence, and volunteers helped former felons, like Tilmon, fill out the necessary paperwork to register.
For the past several months, the Arkansas Homeless Coalition has been getting more involved in politics. The group had two candidate forums at their monthly meetings -- the first in March before the primaries and the second in October.
The coalition, which includes service providers and advocates, has also had four voter registration drives for the homeless in Pulaski County.
"Every person should have an equal voice, and people who are experiencing homelessness should have input into issues that affect their lives," said Sandra Wilson, coalition president. "And, of course, that's done through the ability to have a vote."
Coalition members also published statements from local and state candidates about their plans to help the homeless. These statements were sent out to service providers and posted on the coalition Facebook page, Wilson said.
Several homeless people at Jericho Way and staying in parks said they voted early. Many were interested in Issue 4. Several mentioned that they voted for candidates who they thought would keep their Medicaid benefits the same. Others focused most of their attention on mayoral and city board elections because they think those officials can have the most impact on homelessness.
Others couldn't vote because they didn't have any identification -- a common problem, service providers say.
Darryl Christian, 51, lost his identification in MacArthur Park a couple of months ago. He spends many days sitting in the park, reading Louis L'amour books.
Christian said he wasn't particularly interested in any candidates until he met Danny Lewis, a Ward 1 city director contender. He said he's seen Lewis out a few times, volunteering to help serve food to the homeless. Before that, he felt forgotten by political candidates.
But after he lost his Arkansas ID, he started volunteering to help Lewis and said he handed out fliers to other people in the park, left them at stores and walked around putting them on windshields of parked cars.
"Voting is the only way we are going to get people who believe in what we want," Christian said.
Metro on 11/07/2018
Print Headline: Registration drive bringing LR's homeless to the polls