Edmonton Votes 2017: Addiction, homelessness issues in downtown Ward 6

Ward 6 encompasses downtown Edmonton and has almost 54,000 eligible voters.

Central Edmonton ward includes the city's most dense neighbourhood, Oliver

Homelessness is an issue in the city's downtown Ward 6. (Gareth Hampshire/CBC)

Ward 6 encompasses the downtown core, stretching west into Glenora and Westmount and east into Riverdale and McCauley. The Oliver neighbourhood, just west of downtown, is the most dense community in the city.

Ward 6 has seen recent revitalization, with the opening of Rogers Place, construction of new high-rise developments and the addition of the Metro Line LRT. But the area continues to struggle with homelessness and addictions issues.

The fentanyl crisis is felt most strongly in the core, with opioid overdose rates dramatically higher than average in the area encompassing the downtown core and stretching through McCauley and Alberta Avenue.

The City of Edmonton is proposing that supervised injection sites be offered at three community agencies — Boyle Street Community Services, Boyle McCauley Health Centre and the George Spady Centre. A fourth program would be set up at the Royal Alexandra Hospital for inpatients only. All of the sites are within Ward 6.

Side effects of gentrification

Jacquelyn Cardinal, a resident of Ward 6, runs her tech company, Naheyawin, out of a downtown shared co-working space. Like many 20-somethings living and working in the core, she's loving that downtown Edmonton is becoming more lively and pedestrian- and bike-friendly. But she's concerned about the side-effects of gentrification.
Rogers Place and the towers going up nearby are revitalizing Edmonton's downtown core, part of Ward 6. (John Robertson/CBC)

"I'm seeing a lot of homelessness downtown and people that have nowhere to go when it's –40C," she said. "And despite the fact that the mayor has made some strides so that people can access the LRT platforms when it's really, really cold in the winter, obviously I don't think that's anything that's, in any meaningful way, addressing that problem."

She added: "I'm really enjoying living and working downtown, but it tugs on my heart strings a bit when I see the side-effects." 

2016 municipal census statistics

Population: 72,367

Eligible voters: 53,393

Owns home: 24.4%

Rents home: 53.5%

Lived there five years or more: 23.6%

Mainly drives to work: 53.8%

Takes transit to work: 19.5%

Main language other than English: French (2.6%)

Income under $30,000: 12.9%

Income $60,000 to $100,000: 10.7%

Children in preschool: 2.2%

Children from kindergarten to Grade 6: 2.2%

Interesting statistics: Only 15.2% of residents live in single detached homes. The majority live in high-rise apartments or condos (42.7%) or one- to four-storey apartments or condos (34.5%).

Neighbourhoods: Downtown, McCauley, Boyle Street, Riverdale, Rossdale, Central McDougall, Queen Mary Park, Oliver, Westmount, Glenora, Grovenor, McQueen

Four candidates: Bill Knight, Scott McKeen, Adil Pirbhai, Tish George Prouse

From left: Adil Pirbhai, Tish George Prouse, Scott McKeen, Bill Knight ( Ward map: City of Edmonton; candidate photos supplied)

CBC Edmonton's  candidate survey responses:

Scott McKeen, 58, has lived in Edmonton 51 years

Family: three children
Credentials: Ward 6 incumbent; diploma in journalism from MacEwan
Top issues: help attract and maintain talented workforce; do something about homelessness; attract families to downtown neighbourhoods
City's biggest challenge: homelessness, rebuilding the required supportive housing

Bill Knight - No response

Adil Pirbhai- No response

Tish George Prouse, 37, has lived in Edmonton his whole life

Family: married, one child
Credentials: landlord and property refurbisher; master's degree in archaeology, University College London
Top issues: tackle homelessness; address infill while preserving historical spaces and places; increase accountability in transportation and spending
City's biggest challenge: fix process for consulting residents and business owners on infrastructure decisions, such as the bike network and public transportation

Ward issues: 

With files from the CBC's Natasha Riebe