By Cecilia Nasmith/Today’s Northumberland
The personal side of homelessness was very much on display at Cobourg council’s committee-of-the-whole meeting Tuesday, with the personal recollections of one who has been there.
Rob Horgan was one of a number of speakers addressing the homelessness issue to a full gallery in council chambers, prompting Mayor Lucas Cleveland to make a statement at the very beginning of the meeting on the rules that applied to conduct in council chambers.
“At no time shall there be any disruptions to the process,” Cleveland warned.
“I know there will be difficult emotions shared tonight, very difficult stories shared, contrasting opinions shared tonight. In that spirit, I am going to remind everyone there’s a decorum in council chambers.
“There will be no booing. There will be no cheering. There will be no yelling or vocal engagement.”
Cleveland was attending virtually, but still insisted the rules would be enforced.
“There will not be any warnings. There will not be any asks. We will be asking people to leave this evening should they not follow the rules of order.”
With an emotional story to tell, Horgan asked that supporters at least show him a thumbs-up as he related how he became homeless due to domestic abuse. It does happen to men, he said – and when it does, there are no services.
Following head trauma from a motorcycle injury, he could no longer function as a professor at Durham College. Unable to contribute to the household, he was kicked out.
In short, he went from being important and valued to someone whose opinion no longer mattered.
He moved to Cobourg, bringing among his possessions a cache of letters his grandfather wrote to his grandmother during World War II. The sacrifices he made fighting for our freedoms inspired him, and he started his own business. It ultimately failed, but it allowed him to meet some wonderful people.
Horgan was also gratified to see how the community came together during the weather crisis at Christmas time, but his narrative broke off when Mayor Cleveland let him know he had two more minutes of time left.
The speaker was obviously flustered, but Cleveland said he hadn’t meant to cut him off.
“You did mean to cut me off,” he insisted, calling Cleveland “a mayor that says nobody is allowed to express themselves.
“I pay taxes, I pay rent, I go to restaurants and I tip well because I know what a bad day looks like,” he said.
“Every voice matters.”
Horgan wound up his presentation shortly thereafter, struggling with his emotions, declining the chance to take questions.
“I don’t really want to take any questions right now. I just want to go home,” he said.