Homeless vote: 11 tent city dwellers on Clinton, Trump and choosing a president

In Seattle and Portland, camp residents discuss Hillary Clintons emails and whether Donald Trump would take us back to the dark ages

Amyann Darden believes Ronald Reagan was Americas last great president. This election, shes voting for Hillary Clinton.

Darden, 55, used to manage an accounting firm. But her life changed after a nervous breakdown. Now relying on social security, she was forced to leave her Seattle apartment when the rent went from $950 to $1,450 a month. Shes been staying outdoors at Tent City 3, an encampment operated by homeless residents, while trying to save for a rental deposit.

Over the last year, Portland, Seattle and the state of Hawaii have declared a state of emergency on homelessness, with other cities considering it. But in the presidential election, the issue is receiving minimal political attention. At homeless camps Hazelnut Grove in Portland and Tent City 3 in Seattle, the issues that led people to become homeless reflect on the issues facing many voters this election: soaring rent, debt, access to healthcare, discrimination.

We asked several camp residents for their thoughts.

Amyann Darden, 55: Retaining social security is an important issue to me


Amyann
Amyann Darden in Seattle. Photograph: Annabel Clark

I was going to vote Republican but when I watched the convention and saw what Trump stood for, I thought, No way. His platforms based on hatred and fear. Im horrified that some of my friends still support him.

So Im voting for Hillary. Retaining social security is an important issue to me. I worked for 30 years and paid into it and then became disabled. Im very afraid it will be phased out during a Trump presidency.

I was staying in motel rooms before I came to Tent City. I use my sons address for everything; hes in community living as he has schizophrenia. My ballot will be going there.

I want to stay in Seattle to be close to my children and grandchildren. My daughter doesnt know Im at the camp. She has a lot of money and has helped me pay off some medical bills to raise my credit score and I dont want to ask for further help right now; eventually I will be disabled to a point where I will need care and Ill need to ask then.

Zoe White, 34: Ill probably vote for Jill Stein


Zoe
Zoe White in Portland. Photograph: Annabel Clark

Ive voted every year Ive been eligible. Generally Green or Socialist, sometimes Democrat. Ill probably vote for Jill Stein this year. Theres no representation of ecologists, left causes or democratic socialism anywhere else.

I see Hillary Clinton as having a liberal wrapper around a traditionalist core. I dont know whose interests shes going to sell out to, but Im pretty sure shes going to sell out. I voted for Bernie Sanders in the primary election. Now hes telling people to vote for Hillary; Im disappointed in him.

There are many misconceptions of houseless people. First of all, that we dont work we do. I had a job for a long time at a country club. I would say through that Ive been subject to employment discrimination as a female whos trans.

There are also the insinuations that were lazy, use drugs, were all thieves. In Hazelnut Grove, where Im lucky enough to live, were an intentional community. If you steal from someone, youre run the hell out. Here theres the idea that if you put into the community, the community reciprocates. I feel like that type of culture is being squeezed out during the gentrification process [of Portland]. Property values are taking precedence over community.

Andrew Constantino, 41: I have to watch the train wreck


Andrew
Andrew Constantino in Seattle. Photograph: Annabel Clark

Im voting for Hillary. On her own merits, shes committed to social issues and doing good. I would never even consider voting for Trump. But I have to watch the train wreck; I cannot stop myself.

Some people think anyone getting government assistance automatically votes liberal, but thats absolutely not true. You hear all these Trump lovers here. I try telling them, Do you realize hes the type of person who doesnt care about anything thats ever happened to you? But its like being with your family at Thanksgiving; you try avoiding those conversations because they go nowhere.

Ive lived in Seattle for almost 20 years. Its become more and more expensive to survive. When my girlfriend and I lost our jobs very close together, we burned through our savings.

Were both working full time again, but its just that there are no good options. I refuse to pay some exorbitant amount of rent to live in absolute poverty. Id rather do this until theres a reasonable option.

Roxy Garske, 58: I dont trust Hillary after the emails


Roxy
Roxy Garske in Seattle. Photograph: Annabel Clark

Im voting for Gary Johnson because hes not one of the other two. I dont like Hillary because I dont believe what she says; I dont trust her after the emails. I think shes too rightwing. Shes more interested in the needs of the rich and powerful.

If I could only vote between her and Trump, Id choose her. The thought of him winning scares me, especially for women. Ive got two daughters and two granddaughters. If hes voted in, hell turn back the clock. Hes already stirring up trouble by getting people worried about immigrants.

None of the candidates are addressing homelessness. Its an invisible society. Lots of people here dont know they can vote. But when we had a voter drive, around 30 people registered and were excited to find they could vote.

I have peripheral neuropathy and spinal stenosis. This is the second time Ive been homeless. About five years ago, my husband said, Im going to get stuck taking care of you. He said he wanted a divorce, which is fine. I was homeless while I waited for the settlement but then I got a house. I had to go into hospital and while I was very unwell; I lost my house. It went into foreclosure in July. I stayed with friends but theyve got some other people staying there now, but Im going back when theyre gone. Im just here for a month.

Marvin Ross, 56: A woman will be better off running the country


Marvin
Marvin Ross in Portland. Photograph: Annabel Clark

Donald Trump is not important to me. Hes not down for the people. Hes got all this money so he doesnt care what happens to the United States. I dont see how being president is important to him. Why would he want to step down?

I think a woman will be better off running the country than a man anyway. Look at how long men have run this country and how theyve messed it up. I havent always voted but when I have, its been Democrat.

Right now, Im living in a big tent. Ive got a real bed. My clothes on hangers. All my CDs. Im here for the long term. Im building my own tiny house; Im just waiting for more wood. Ive never built a house before; Im learning from watching others. Ive got a criminal background for drug possession that keeps me from renting. But Ive never tried to rent. Ive lived with girlfriends and family members. I came here to be alone.

Lori Perry, 39: If I dont vote, Ive got no right to bitch


Lori
Lori Perry in Seattle. Photograph: Annabel Clark

I dont think about politics much. My priorities are spending time with my husband, getting away from the camp, my kids and grandkids. Mostly what goes through my head is flashbacks.

I looked the candidates up on Google once. I cant really do news. Whats happening in front of me right now, today, is what matters. But its still important to me to cast my vote because if I dont vote, Ive got no right to bitch.

I want to vote for Bernie Sanders, so Im going to write his name in. If I had to choose between Trump and Clinton, Id choose Trump because Im not sure about a woman having that much control yet. I respect Trump because hes built everything from nothing. But I dont think hes the right guy for the job. Its all kind of confusing in my head.

I moved my husband and myself here in July. He has Parkinsons and this is where he gets treated. We came from Alaska where we could get housing but we were in drugs real bad. We were doing marijuana and meth. We cant afford rent here but if we return, I know hell go right back to it. Hes angry at me for keeping us homeless. But were doing good. Weve been sober since July. I still drink once in a while. We got a room on Monday and I got six beers.

Cierra Discher, 30: Im voting for Trump


Cierra
Cierra Discher in Seattle. Photograph: Annabel Clark

Im voting for Trump. A woman in charge is probably not what we need. But I dont know anything about it. Ive got bigger fish to fry. It really doesnt affect my immediate life. I mean if somebody else was president, would I still be sitting here? Probably. But I hear its better to vote for the wrong person than not at all. And Im registered.

Last night was my first night on the streets. I slept behind a building. This will be my first night at Tent City 3 theyve just given me a tent. I was staying at my boyfriends but I found out he was Mexican drug mafia. I left while he was at work and went to a hotel for two days.

I used meth yesterday so Im pretty emotional. Im about to go into treatment. Ive waited two months for that and hopefully it will get me on my feet.

My ballot will go to my moms house. We dont talk but I go to hers on the 10th of every month and she leaves me my mail.

Leashia McDaniels, 24: None of my friends vote


Leashia
Leashia McDaniels in Portland. Photograph: Annabel Clark

Im not registered to vote. Politics has always seemed kind of boring to me. I dont feel like it has an effect on my life. None of my friends vote. My moms side was more Republican but I dont think she votes any more. I dont know anything about my dads side. From what Ive heard of Donald Trump, hes an ass. I dont know too much about Hillary Clinton.

I became homeless three years ago. I got kicked out of my moms house because her boyfriend didnt approve of the relationship I was in. I started using meth and kept on it for almost two years.

Ive been at Hazelnut Grove since March. Being here has kept me clean. A lot of people have helped and supported me. If I was somewhere else Id be back where I was a year ago.

Im usually pretty much a loner; Ive never been much of a people person. But Im learning to get along with people better now.

Joseph Tequila Gordon, 36: This earth is our home but homes going to die


Joseph
Joseph Gordon in Portland. Photograph: Annabel Clark

Climate change is my number one issue. This earth is our home but homes going to die. And were stuck on what? Bathrooms?

Bernie Sanders was addressing the issues I was concerned with. He kept Hillary on her toes and changed her focus. I dont see her as a leader, though. I dont have anyone to vote for but Im still sending in the ballot. I always vote. My mothers white and my father was black. She always told us society is going to treat us black. Shed say: The way your people have been treated? Youre going to vote.

If theres a protest, Im there. I used to protest by myself in Cincinnati, where Im from. My first protest was in sixth grade to stop the drilling in Antarctica. Id watched something on PBS about it. I tried to join the International Socialist Organization when they started a chapter there. But it was pretty bougie. Theyd complain about the problems, then go to a coffee shop to buy a $7 latte, walking past a homeless person on the way out.

I love Portland. The people are awesome. But theres not enough housing for the population. And the housing policies are causing a lot of houselessness. Like no-cause evictions [in which a landlord can terminate a contract for no reason with 30 days notice] and the applications fee you have to pay every time you apply to rent somewhere. Some landlords keep a place vacant to take in lots of fees.

Cody, 24, and Isaiah, 25: We would go back to the dark ages with Trump


Cody
Cody and Isaiah in Seattle. Photograph: Annabel Clark

[Cody Bowen] Hillarys seen how people who are homeless are living. Shes helped non-profits that work with people in our situation. Trumps attitude is more like, If you dont have money, youre not worth anything.

I was 16 when I first became homeless. It was because of my life choices, being homosexual. I come from a Southern Baptist family, where my father is a preacher and a chaplain in the army. I came home one day and hed bought me a Greyhound ticket to Arizona, left my stuff on the front porch and changed the locks.

[Isaiah Thomas] Im voting for Hillary primarily to keep Trump out of office. I read that hes planning on supporting supreme court candidates who want to overturn the marriage equality bill, which were planning on taking advantage of ourselves pretty soon.

I never really cared much before about politics but as Ive got older and realized how it affects our lives, Ive started paying attention. Weve come a long way in American society and I think we would go back to the dark ages with Trump.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/oct/19/homeless-vote-clinton-trump-stein-seattle-portland

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