Camp organizers escalating demand for free transit for homeless Edmontonians
EDMONTON -- Organizers at the Pekiwewin camp in Edmonton's river valley are escalating 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.
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.
"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. She called mobility "a right, not a privilege."
"It might not seem like a simple task to city officials, but it is their job to see to the wellbeing of the people in this city," Robinson said.
However, later Tuesday, Mayor Don Iveson said free transit is not an option and that people in the camp he's talked to are more interested in housing.
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.
The city says it's reviewing the updated camp demands and plans to respond in the coming days.
In August, the city said the camp could remain open, provided there are no COVID-19 outbreaks, violent incidents or weather emergencies.
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