People Serving People sees civic engagement as an equalizing opportunity for staff and shelter guests to work together towards the shared interest of systems change. A core team comprised of seven guests and nine staff from five different departments partnered together to build awareness and excitement around civic engagement through a variety of nonpartisan voter education and voter registration opportunities. The team, driven by shelter guests, strives to co-develop voter activation strategies that best suit community needs and interests.  

The core team delegated responsibility of voter engagement initiatives into three areas: 

  1. voter education;
  2. registration; 
  3. mobilization.  

These efforts took the shape of informational resource fairs, registration and pledge drives, tabling on National Voter Registration Day, and providing practice and sample ballots for people to feel prepared for what to expect when voting. They also initiated a webpage with resources, message boards, and information blasts to provide staff and guests with education and engagement opportunities. The engagement and leadership of guests and residents are at the center of any programming at People Serving People. 

“Our voter engagement work demonstrates to staff and community that our families have keen insight into system gaps and the solutions that can lead to preventing the experience of family homelessness,” shared Renal Ray, associate executive director at People Serving People.  

On Election Day, the People Serving People team had specific plans in place derived directly from guest preferences. They created a civic engagement atmosphere leading up to elections with posters and resources throughout their buildings, as well as decorating the lobby entrance with red, white, and blue balloons. The team organized childcare for part of election day, provided vans to the polls as well as hourly escorts to accompany guests to the polls to vouch for residency at the shelter. They engaged youth who were too young to vote by providing activities, voting stickers to be colored in, and a kid’s-play voting booth. People Serving People also hung an Election Day countdown in their lobby that was created by resident youth.  

People Serving People’s civic engagement efforts directly demonstrate Engaging All Voices – one of the Commitments for High Impact Organizations – by placing residents and clients at the center of their decision making and goal setting. They have already seen the lasting impact of their co-created community activation strategy. 

“Together, we are building the collective – personal and political – power of people experiencing homelessness,” said Ray.  

People Serving People is the largest and most comprehensive, family-focused homeless shelter in Minnesota. People Serving People helps children and families at-risk of or currently experiencing, homelessness, manage crisis situations and build a strong foundation for their long-term success. 

Voter and Civic Engagement Toolkit

The Alliance partnered with experienced members and Nonprofit VOTE to provide examples from the field, along with resources containing guidance on voter and civic engagement in the new toolkit, Strategies for Mobilizing Voters: A Toolkit for Nonprofit Community-Based Organizations.

Download Toolkit