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A tale of two cities: Edmonton’s boom isn’t benefiting everyone

Watch above: People are flocking to Edmonton and, while more people help stimulate the local economy, they also put a strain on it. Vinesh Pratap has Part 2 of Behind the Boom.

EDMONTON – The economic growth in Alberta is causing people from all over Canada to make the province their new home.

It was one of the reasons Corey Stevenson chose to leave his home and try his luck here in Edmonton.

“I’m from Winnipeg, Manitoba. Yeah, it’s pretty much dead end over there. There are no jobs, there is nothing. And I was kind of going down the wrong path out there,” he said.

He made the move after hearing about Edmonton’s booming economy and the employment opportunities that existed in the city.

“My expectations coming out here were… I would find a job no problem because of the experience.  But, the barriers were: I needed certificates and pretty much had to be drug-free,” said Stevenson.

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He’s been living in Edmonton for the past three months; a time he describes as difficult.

When asked if he has found a place to live, Stevenson replied: “I’m going to say – sort of. I’ve met some pretty nice people out here, and – I’ll just leave it at that.”

Stevenson is getting some help from a service called Water Wings, a program put on by the youth unit at the Boyle Street Community Services, that is helping him get his GED and back on his feet.

 “I want to make a better future for myself, my younger siblings… my kids, if I do ever have any.

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“I want the security and safeness and just knowing that I saw the other side of the train tracks, and I’m about to make a life on the better side of the train tracks.”

Stevenson’s story is not unusual.

Boyle Street Executive Director Julian Daly estimates 12,000 individuals visit the centre annually.

In 2011, it was 9,000.

Daly says people come to Boyle Street when they are homeless or living in poverty and need assistance.

“As the city has boomed, we’ve seen the amount of affordable housing reduced significantly.

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“Rent is going up as well. Even when there are properties available for the people who are homeless or who have moved to Edmonton, it becomes very hard for folks to afford them.”

Daly says the increase is a testament to the growth of poverty in the city.

“From my perspective, we really are seeing a tale of two cities.”

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“We obviously are sitting just by the arena development and see our city expanding and growing with more opportunities.

“We are also seeing the number of people coming to our services and our community centre growing.”

Earlier this year, Mayor Don Iveson announced a task force for the elimination of poverty.

The premier has also identified the reduction of homelessness and poverty as priorities in his mandate.