The November election is just days away, and the state is putting in one last push to get people to cast their ballots either by mail or at their local polling station. There are a number of obstacles to voting, however, for people experiencing homelessness in Massachusetts, including disinformation. GBH Morning Edition host Joe Mathieu spoke with Lyndia Downie, Executive Director of the Pine Street Inn, about how the South End shelter is helping residents vote in this year's election. The transcript below has been edited for clarity.

Joe Mathieu: I know you make a big effort every four years to inform your residents to help get people to the polls. I suspect that's a lot more complicated in a pandemic.

Lyndia Downie: Well, actually, registering people is a little bit more complicated as well because not every homeless person has access to online registration. So we have a terrific group of young people called "the ambassadors" and they organized all of the voter registration at the shelters this year. They brought laptops in, they did a lot of research and let people know not just how to register, but if they wanted to vote early [or] wanted to vote by mail. They put together fliers, you know, Pine Street builds affordable housing for people leaving homelessness, and they did a flier for every single house with where the polling station was, the deadline for early voting [and] where with the drop boxes were. So it was a huge effort on their part and [we're] very grateful to them for helping our guests do their civic duty.

Mathieu: What's the misinformation that you need to fight? There's a lot of new information this year with mail-in and some of the different things that are happening — [like] early voting — but [what are] some of the misconceptions [and] presumptions, I'm assuming, among people experiencing homelessness [and] what they're eligible for?

Downie: I think the first one, Joe, is that people think because they don't have a permanent address they can't vote, and that's not true. You can use the Pine Street Inn address, obviously, if you're staying in one of our shelters. But oftentimes even if we meet people on the street and they want to register, they as well can use Pine Street Inn as an address. So people think, "I'm homeless. I don't have a permanent address." Not true; you can still vote. And then people who have been in jail are often under the impression they can't vote, and they can. In Massachusetts, once you leave jail or prison, you can vote. So a lot of the conversations the ambassadors we're having were really about correcting that misinformation for people.

Mathieu: Are your guests eager to vote this time? I wonder what you hear because we could argue the stakes in this election are higher for your residents, or anyone experiencing homelessness, than those who might be more financially stable.

Downie: I think the stakes are very high. Housing policy, health care policy, employment related issues all matter a whole lot to our guests. And even though when you're homeless, life is very challenging and chaotic and, frankly, nothing is simple, I think most of the guests I've talked to over the years are very eager to vote. You see an entire political spectrum in our lobbies at the shelters. But people feel very proud that they're able to vote, and want to vote and want to be engaged, and they absolutely make the connection between where they are in the shelter and the policies that sometimes, deliberately or not, end up creating homelessness.

Mathieu: I wonder as well if people, when it comes time to vote, feel a personal sense of responsibility, or if you're going back down the hallway and knocking on the door, reminding people every day as we get closer, or are people coming to you asking for information?

Downie: Some people are coming to us and we do have information at our front desk. A basic outline [on] how to register [and] what the deadlines are. So we are getting some inquiry. And then on voting day, we will certainly be walking people down [from the South End shelters] to the polling station, which is just about a block away. And in our houses, the staff there will be reminding people to vote. And frankly, a lot of the houses, the polling stations are close by if people have not already voted early. But I do feel it's a point of pride for many of our guests. Despite how bad life has gotten, despite all the obstacles they face every day, most of the guests that I talked to feel strongly about this.

Mathieu: It's interesting, Lyndia, you're walking them to the polling stations. In any other election, you'd be getting vans and busses together, right?

Downie: Probably. This is a challenging election, and we did spend a fair amount of time talking to people about do you want to vote by mail and here's how you can vote by mail. It's been a little bit easier in the houses to do that for people [and] more challenging in the shelter, frankly, so probably more of the shelter guests will vote, we hope, on voting day versus the vote by mail. We now have 38 houses where we're providing permanent housing and we're encouraging every one of those people to vote as well.

Mathieu: Lyndia, what's Thanksgiving going to look like this year? I presume that with the pandemic [and] with the many challenges you're facing, it, too, will be very different.

Downie: It will be extraordinarily different. How can I describe it? Pine Street turned 50 this year, Joe, and for 50 years we've been having a very large Thanksgiving Day celebration with hundreds of volunteers doing everything from helping us cook, helping us serve, helping us clean, literally decorating the dining room and trying to make it a really lovely day for people because it is such a tough day if you're homeless. This year because of the pandemic, it'll be very subdued. We will not have many volunteers and we will be doing probably two or three people to a table. Normally we eat family style, everybody's together and it's usually a lovely day. So it's disappointing. It's a little bit heartbreaking, I will tell you that. So it's going to be different for this year. Let's hope that next year we can go back to celebrating and recognizing the gratitude that the rest of us have at Thanksgiving.

Mathieu: But you're still going to be there, Lyndia, because you guys were always there. And I want to thank you for coming on to talk to me this morning. Maybe we'll check in as we get a little bit closer to the holiday.