Ensuring Every Voice is Heard: Working with Homeless & At-Risk Youth in Milwaukee

Ensuring Every Voice is Heard: Working with Homeless & At-Risk Youth in Milwaukee

October 21, 2016
Written by Jessie Palatucci

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Youth with Pastor Andrew and Rep. Johnson

UCC congregations are working to ensure that every voice is heard in this election. Check out this great update from Rev. Andrew Warner, pastor of Plymouth Church in Milwaukee. His congregation has been working with homeless and at-risk youth to make sure their voice is heard at the polls:

“Homelessness presents many life challenges. How to vote need not be one of them. Wisconsin law allows homeless people to register to vote through agencies that serve them. Plymouth Church of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, partnered with the youth services agency Pathfinders to connect with homeless and vulnerable young adults. Together they are educating young adults about the importance of voting and engaging them in education and discussion of key issues. On Election Day, they will make sure the young adults get to the polls and don't face process challenges to their right to vote.”

As part of the education and engagement effort, Pastor Andrew Warner brought Wisconsin State Representative LaTonya Johnson to speak with youth over dinner at Pathfinders. Rep. Johnson's district includes many of the same neighborhoods the young adults come from.

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Representative LaTonya Johnson speaking with youth.

“Rep. Johnson shared her life story with them and her call to elected office. Soon the conversation turned to issues on the minds of the youth, especially gun violence. "How many of you have lost a family member or close friend to gun violence," Rep. Johnson asked. Most hands went up. As she discussed the issues, Rep. Johnson returned again and again to the point - "We can’t create change unless you participate."

The discussion became animated as the youth pressed their points. Pathfinders' staff member DeShanda Williams reminded everyone of the rule, "One Diva/Divo, One Mic." It sounded like a good rule for the presidential debates! Throughout the conversation the young adults raised the issues that mattered to them: how the police interact with their neighborhoods, their experience as transgender people, trouble finding work, hopes to become a film maker.”

The dinner discussion is part of an on-going effort that has already included voter registration at a Pathfinders hosted job-fair and will include future education nights and a new voter rally at Plymouth Church."

What is their hope?

“Overall, Plymouth and Pathfinders hope the experience of participating in the electoral process will help homeless and vulnerable youth find their voice and claim their own agency in our society.

"We're making sure homeless young adults are not disenfranchised," said Pastor Andrew”

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