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York Region tries to sway neighbours of proposed Aurora shelter

February 1, 2024

Posted on: February 1st, 2024. Posted by: Joseph Quigley, Original Article.

Hundreds attend open house both for and against the proposed 55-unit emergency and transitional housing facility on Yonge Street

Hundreds of residents for and against a proposed homeless shelter came to the Aurora library Jan. 29 to hear York Region’s pitch for the new facility.

The open house sought to answer questions and provide more information about the 55-unit facility for emergency and transitional housing proposed for Aurora at 14452 Yonge St. The session comes ahead of the town’s public planning session Feb. 13 to hear more from the community about the proposal.

Housing York chair and Newmarket Mayor John Taylor said that he hopes the open house event could create positive dialogue, however, some residents do not want to see the project move forward.

“I would suggest we think about the impact on the community if it’s not built. There are communities all around the GTA where the neighbourhood parks have four, five, six tents in them,” Taylor said, adding if the need is not addressed, “then we’ll have people unsupported in tents and bus shelters. Those are the options. We can’t will this away or pretend it’s not something we need to step up and address.”

The project from the Regional Municipality of York has garnered controversy, as well as significant opposition at a public planning meeting in January 2023, with residents raising issues like crime and declining property values, while threatening legal action. The outcry prompted the Town of Aurora to delay the project, with staff working to adjust it over the past year.

The open house featured displays highlighting various aspects of the project. York Region staff, York Regional Police and politicians were all on hand to discuss the proposed shelter.

York general manager of social services Kevin Pal said they were thrilled with the turnout for the event. He said all the feedback would be gathered and summarized for use going forward. 

“This is another opportunity for us to connect with the community to hear their perspectives and also to address questions and concerns that may have arisen,” he said. 

Acting general manager of housing services Karen Antonio-Hadcock said the team has worked on the project behind the scenes to address planning issues raised at the meeting a year ago. 

“We’ve been looking at the site design, the building design so that we are making sure that we’re addressing the feedback from the community,” she said. 

The proposal aims to replace Porter Place in East Gwillimbury, which the region said operates at or near capacity “and does not meet modern design or building standards.”

The new facility will be located 34 metres from the Henderson Sewage Pumping Station.

In a fact sheet, the region said safety and security are important, and the site plans have been developed with crime prevention in mind. The building would have a security system and monitoring 24/7. 

“Data from the York Regional Police’s community safety map does not suggest a correlation between criminal offences and people experiencing homelessness,” the region said.

Still, many residents who attended remain concerned by the project. Joe Amselo operates the Swiss Chalet and Harvey’s restaurants just south of the proposed location. He said he already sees activity with homeless people coming in, interfering with staff and trying to spend the night in the restaurant.

“There is already presence, and I’m worried about bringing a shelter home right there, (it) might be more, so I’m concerned about the safety of my employees,” he said, adding he would prefer to see a different location or added security. 

Richmond Hill resident Eric Wolf said he opposes the shelter after experiencing too many regular disturbances living next to the youth shelter operated by 360°kids, and that he is hearing many of the same things now as he did in the lead-up to the Richmond Hill facility.

“From day one, noise, fighting … the feeling of unsafeness, the quality of life, the influx of strangers, the loitering, the panhandling,” he said, adding he feels the region needs to take more accountability in its discussions with the public. “The truth, as ugly as it may be, needs to be spoken and needs to be given to the people so that they can make the proper informed decision.”

But supporters also came out to back the project. Aurora resident Kathy Kantel said she spent her entire career building social housing, including shelters, and knows the good that they do.

“I’ve seen the tents in my local park this summer, which made me weep,” she said. “Somebody’s going to die if we don’t deal with this and there’s no reason it shouldn’t happen.”

Kantel said the region has done well in presenting the project, but for some, it may not make a difference.

“There’s nothing that’s going to persuade a lot of people except to build it and have them find out nothing bad happens,” she said.

Aurora resident Kimberley McLean also believes in the project and said it is a great way to get people off the street and transition them into housing.

“I understand that people have concerns, but I think if they availed themselves of the correct information, it would alleviate some of their concern,” she said.

Updates on the project, along with a survey, are available at

Aurora council will hear from the public about the matter at a public planning meet Feb. 13 at 7 p.m. at the town hall.