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‘NIMBYism at its worst’: Aurora rejects men’s shelter

February 14, 2024

Posted on: February 14th, 2024. By: Lisa Queen,, Original Article.

The proposed men’s shelter in south Aurora is dead, with councillors voting 4-3 to turn down the Region of York’s emergency and transitional housing project following a six-hour meeting on Feb. 13.

Mayor Tom Mrakas and councillors John Gallo, Michael Thompson and Harold Kim voted down the shelter, with councillors Rachel Gilliland, Wendy Gaertner and Ron Weese willing to move forward.

Politicians and residents who spoke against it agreed that a shelter is needed amid the housing crisis and growing homelessness, but insisted that the site at 14452 Yonge St., south of Industrial Parkway, is the wrong location for a variety of reasons, including safety concerns, its proximity to a sewage pumping station, an LCBO store and a railway line and what they see as a failure of the region to look at other sites and address questions and concerns from residents and local politicians.

Two Richmond Hill residents living near 360°kids, which serves at-risk and homeless youth, warned of constant concerns with a facility supporting people experiencing homelessness.

Many Aurora shelter opponents said they would welcome a facility in another part of town, although Gallo was the only member of council who offered an alternative spot, saying he would be willing to consider selling a site at the southeast corner of Yonge and Mosley streets, close to the new Town Square community space.

The town paid $5.7 million for the property four years ago and Gallo said the town could consider selling it to the region for the same price.

Meanwhile, those who support the men’s shelter argued that the proposed shelter location would have been an excellent site, arguing it was secluded from neighbours and unseen from the road but with access to transit, services and amenities.

Saying opponents were using trumped-up planning reasons for rejecting a facility for men offering emergency and transitional housing and supports, they debunked suggestions that the pumping station and railway make it an inappropriate location because many people, including those in expensive homes, live near such facilities.

Michael Braithwaite, CEO of Blue Door, the largest provider of emergency housing and support services in York Region, which had hoped to operate the shelter, said he’s upset with the councillors’ decision but will work to find a new location.

“This is just a case of NIMBYism at its worst,” he told following the meeting.

“I’m deeply disappointed but motivated to do even more. People (in need) are counting on it. We’ve been through it before, faced adversity before, and we’ll step up and put the pressure on politicians to back up what they said in there and find another site in Aurora. I think Aurora was picked for a reason. It’s very central in the region, it’s a great spot. What we heard here tonight, despite this not going through, is that councillors are dedicated to find a space for our most vulnerable.”

Gilliland slammed Mrakas and councillors who rejected the shelter, saying they had previously spoken in favour of the project and were well aware of its proximity to the pumping station and railway tracks but have since backtracked following a backlash from residents.

She said she holds Mrakas accountable for putting the region, Aurora council and residents in the midst of the shelter controversy.

“Because if you didn’t support this location, then why did you move forward with this process and spend $1 million (the amount the region spent on the process) doing it? As I said, we knew about this in 2018 … I just find it really remarkable that here we are today and we’re talking out of both sides of our mouth,” she said.

The shelter is critically and urgently needed as people struggle with increased mortgages, rents, homelessness and inflation, Gilliland said.

Mrakas said regional council never approved the site, only the budget to search for a location.

“I will not tolerate misinformation being presented,” he said.

He added that the 55-unit shelter would be far too much for the site.

Correction – Feb. 16, 2024: This article has been edited from a previous version to reflect that Coun. John Gallo was the only member of council to suggest a specific alternative site.