Conklin Survey Finds Dozens of Residents Living in Unstable Housing

Fort McMurray Today, January 21, 2019

Vincent McDermott

A report from the Alberta Rural Development Network has found that at least 92 people in Conklin live in inadequate or unstable housing situations, with many homes reporting serious problems with mould, plumbing, heating and structural integrity.

The report estimates at least 40 to 45 new housing units are needed in the community, with 15 to 20 units able to support families of at least three.

What percentage of Conklin’s population this represents is not known, as a population breakdown of the 2018 municipal census for individual hamlets has yet to be released.

Community leaders estimate this data represents nearly one-third of Conklin residents, as the 2015 census puts Conklin’s permanent population at 333 permanent residents. The hamlet is about 150 kilometres south of Fort McMurray.

“We thought we made an error when we saw the data for the first time,” said Zain Abedin, manager of community development for ARDN, in a Monday interview. “We double and triple-checked it before putting out a media release. But the data has been verified.”

Other results of the survey found 35 per cent of the impacted residents are no older than 20, More than 61 per cent earned an annual income of $10,000 to $20,000, while 40 people were unemployed.

Of those 40 people, 34 said job loss was the current reason for their housing situation and 24 people said they had lost their job in the oil and gas industry.

The survey found 53 of the 92 residents were male, with 24 under the age of 20; another 39 were female, with 17 under the age of 20, including a newborn baby girl.

The report criticizes Statistics Canada and the municipal census for a “severely under-reported” look at housing diversity in recent surveys.

It also confirms earlier reports commissioned by the Conklin Resource Development Advisory Committee on homelessness and housing in the hamlet.

Suggestions include an expansion of social services in the hamlet, with special attention paid to employment, and support for adequate housing.

“While we know steps are being taken, we feel those steps need to be taken more quickly, so that our community members can feel safe in adequate housing in the community,” said Stacey Atkinson of the CRDAC board of directors and co-chair of Conklin Housing and Homelessness Committee.