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Housing for all?

A University of Alberta student is hoping to raise awareness and provoke action in Edmonton regarding the current state of housing attainability in the city.

Geneva Ricks, who is in her fifth year in the U of A’s Criminology program, is working with the university’s community service-learning educational program and the Edmonton Coalition on Housing and Homelessness to create a two day conference centred on Edmonton’s current housing situation. The long term goal of the conference, which will take place on June 5 and 6, is to see all Edmontonians living in secure and affordable housing.

“There is a lack of safe, secure, affordable housing for Edmontonians,” said Ricks. Not just for the homeless or those occupying the lower rungs of society, but for middle class and upper middle class as well.”

The conference will feature prominent speakers in the field of housing security and hopes to have at least 100 people attend. The conference will look at housing issues for both adults and youths and will focus on four themes. One theme regards traditional indigenous understanding of home.

“The indigenous people traditionally have lived in a very cyclical manner. They’ve made decisions through consensus. Things were shared and they were nomadic. There wasn’t that sort of land ownership,” Ricks explained. Buildings such as the Rossdale power plant near the Walterdale Bridge were built on traditional indigenous land.

The other themes involve examination of how public policy in the last few decades has contributed to the housing situation of today. Conference speakers will talk about how changes in the political framework has affected the circumstance in the city.

“Some of the autonomy that landlords are given now is making it difficult for people to maintain their homes when they’re facing difficulties,” Ricks said.

Ricks has worked extensively on community projects in Edmonton in the past, including the Youth Restorative Action Project. Her background in community work is what led to her enrolling in a community service-learning course at the university last year. She came up with the idea for the conference after participating in a Tocho Morocho event that celebrated the talents of multicultural seniors in Edmonton. She then brought the idea for the conference to the Edmonton Coalition on Housing and Homelessness.

“It’s something that they’ve wanted to do for some time but never had the funding to do,” said Ricks.

After receiving funding from Community Service-Learning, Ricks and the ECOHH were able to move forward with mobilizing the conference. Ricks hopes the conference will result in attendees becoming educated in the field of housing security and be willing to take action in order to create change.

“By recognizing it as a social injustice, people will be encouraged or will want to mobilize to act. We’re trying to not just educate people but also to gain activists who want to act against these injustices,” Ricks said.

The conference will also include a guided walk from the Milner Library to Giovani Caboto Park. Registration fees are $75 or $40 for students and low income individuals.

Connor O’Donovan

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