Camp organizers escalating demand for free transit for homeless Edmontonians

EDMONTON — Organizers at the Pekiwewin camp in Edmonton’s river valley are esclating their push for the city to provide free transit as part of its plans to address homelessness.

About 200 people are set up in the greenspace next to RE/MAX Field at 104 Street and 96 Avenue.

The group includes frontline outreach and housing workers, Black, Indigenous and racialized community organizers and those with lived experiences of homelessness.

“We’re pressing the city to further commit to a free transit plan so that people who find permanent supportive housing, who find a transitional situation that is conducive to them getting housing, can maintain that position,” camp media liaison Shima Robinson said Wednesday.

Robinson said the group has had weekly talks with the city and have been told free buses and LRT are too expensive.

Organizers originally issued a list of six demands, including divesting money from the Edmonton Police Service budget, dismantling what they call “racist bylaws” and more support for community members.

In August, the city said the camp could remain open, provided there are no COVID-19 outbreaks, violent incidents or weather emergencies.

The federal government announced $1 billion for the Rapid Housing Initiative on Monday, helping cities buy motels and hotels and convert them into housing for the homeless.

Mayor Don Iveson said the money was indicative of more widespread support.

“From all my conversations, the urgency of the opportunity and the urgency of the need has been understood,” he said.

A second homeless camp, the Peace Camp in Old Strathcona, is set to close voluntarily on Sept. 28

With files from CTV News Edmonton’s Dan Grummett

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