Whitby Councillor, Mayor “physically intimidated” by angry resident at public open house

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Published August 31, 2023 at 1:37 pm

Whitby Councillor Maleeha Shahid and Mayor Elizabeth Roy were physically threatened by an irate resident at a public open house Wednesday, with tensions running high over Durham Region’s decision to turn the former Sunnycrest Nursing Home into a 45-bed homeless shelter.

Shahid confirmed the attack at the Whitby Centennial Building in a social media post, calling the open house a “heavy meeting” while denouncing the use of violence used by the resident to make a point.

“I was physically intimated by a resident – there was no reason for anyone to bring their emotions to a level of disrespect towards another human,” she said, while “appreciating” the big turnout from the community. “I understand residents’ need to ask for a more inclusive public consultation and the request to share their understanding that they are not being heard.”

Neither politician was hurt in the incident because of the quick work of security.

Whitby Councillor Maleeha Shahid

Shahid acknowledged that many of the residents in attendance were upset over the Region’s decision to purchase the nursing home before asking the community for their feedback, as well as Whitby cancelling a special council meeting on the issue because of a lack of a quorum.

Roy said she is still committed to holding the special council meeting and is working with the Town’s CAO to find an appropriate date.

The Mayor also emphasized that the shelter is needed in the community more than at any time in history, noting that Durham Region’s homelessness ‘By-Name List’ has grown by almost a third in just two years.

“Homelessness is a growing issue in Whitby and across Durham, and many individuals, seniors, and families are currently living without a roof over their heads or a secure source of food. These are basic rights that should be available to everyone, which is why it is critical that we act now to address these community needs,” Roy said. “The new shelter in Whitby is one example of how the Town of Whitby is working with our partners to create a broader system of supports to help our most vulnerable residents.”

The Town has also partnered with the Region to establish Durham’s first family shelter at 316 Colborne Street West. The shelter will house up to four families with children and has a planned opening by the end of the year. Whitby is also working with Feed the Need in Durham to establish a ‘marketplace model’ food bank in Whitby that would offer evening and/or weekend hours for working families and individuals. The Mayor’s Community Development Fund provided Feed the Need with a $15,000 Lead Grant to establish the model with a location still to be determined.

Whitby Mayor Elizabeth Roy

Programming to support those experiencing homelessness in Whitby are also in the works, with the Town working with the Region of Durham, Salvation Army, and Whitby Public Library to re-purpose 117 King Street (the former overnight warming program) to offer programs and support services for those experiencing homelessness.

“The Town is leading with care and compassion, and I’m calling on our community to do the same,” said Roy. “Life circumstances such as family breakdown, abuse, job loss, addiction, or mental health challenges can leave someone in crisis and without a home.”

“Being homeless is a housing status not someone’s identity. And it can happen to anyone.”

In 2022, more than 550 Whitby residents got help from Durham’s homelessness support and co-ordinated access system.

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