Report: Conklin Housing Crisis Worse Than Expected

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Report: Conklin Housing Crisis Worse Than Expected

The Conklin housing situation isn’t just a crisis, it’s becoming an epidemic.

That’s according to a new report done to raise awareness of the living conditions for the roughly 300 people who call the hamlet home.

The research project was conducted by Peter Fortna who travelled down to the community to see firsthand what the crisis looked like.

He tells Fort McMurray News there are countless stories of people struggling for basic necessities.

“There’s a family living in a trailer and they can’t get access to social housing in the community and as a result they’ve been living homeless, living rough for almost five years and that’s their normal and that should not be acceptable.”

Lack of water, electricity, and heating are just a few issues plaguing the community.

Just like many of the rural communities in the RMWB, couch surfing has become a common practice for many looking to avoid sleeping outside.

“Everyone is one argument from being homeless. Very hard position to be in if you’re trying to grow a family.

Very little resources are forcing some to leave their community. The Centre of Hope says they’ve also seen in an increase in Indigenous youth homeless across Fort McMurray because they can’t find a liveable situation back home.

“Because there are no services in Conklin to deal with the homeless population, they are forced to Fort McMurray, Lac La Biche, or Edmonton and forced to be homeless in the communities,” added Fortna.

There isn’t an exact number of homeless in Conklin, however, Fortna believes it could affect over half of the population.

Living Out Of A Trailer

ImageGrace Richards’ home in Conklin // Peter Fortna

Grace Richards has called Conklin home for years, splitting her years between the hamlet and Fort McMurray.

For roughly six years, she’s been living in a trailer on a relative’s property.

“I didn’t want to go back to Fort McMurray, I wanted to be at home.”

The trailer has no running water or electricity. Richards is able to get a little power thanks to an extension cord she’s plugged into the house on the property.

Heat is the big issue.

“In the winter time, I have to use three heaters to heat my place and my propane cook stove.”

Unfortunately, this isn’t a unique story as many are living in similar conditions. Richards says she also believes over half of the population is homeless.

“It’s very tough for myself and many others that live like I do in the community because of lack of housing, lack of residence.”

She notes a solution will need to travel down a long but necessary road. The first stop, awareness across the RMWB and Canada, showcasing what people in Conklin live through on a daily basis.

Possible Solutions

Fortna notes in the report three possible solutions to follow up on.

The first being a to adopt a “Housing First” approach in the hamlet, giving the homeless a warm place to stay.

The second is to have Conklin’s local leadership be heavily involved in any future plan to fight the issue. The community is also in the process of starting a Housing Committee to have people focus directly on fixing the problem.

The last solution is to provide multiple plans to end each issue from couch surfing to lack of heat, water, and electricity.
Fort McMurray News
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