‘The problem is not the tiny shelters’: Man behind City’s homeless structures speaks out over court injunction

By Lucas Casaletto

The man who has been building small wooden structures for homeless people in Toronto has issued a video statement regarding the City taking him to court.

Khaleel Seivwright has been building the shelters since the fall and has raised more than $200,000 through a “GoFundMe” page for materials but has stopped building them for now.

The City is seeking a court injunction to stop Seivwright from making the shed-like structures.

Seivwright calls the court procedure a distraction.

“The problem is not the tiny shelters. The problem is that Toronto’s most vulnerable people are falling through the cracks,” he said.

“Toronto shelters are too often at capacity. People tell me they have nowhere to go. The money the City is spending to attack me right now could be put into safe housing for those that need it.”

Seivwright says each shelter he builds includes a smoke and carbon monoxide detector and a fire extinguisher.

Last week a man died in a fire in one of the units set up at an encampment in Orphans Green Park, near Adelaide and Parliament streets.

“The City of Toronto should drop its application against me,” he said. “Focus its resources and efforts on what matters; getting people safely housed. It’s February. The City should not be removing or destroying tiny shelters until real alternatives exist and COVID-19 is under control.”

Homeless encampments have popped up throughout the City as hundreds fled shelters last year for fear of contracting COVID-19.

Seivwright’s insulated, wooden “tiny shelters” are in numerous parks around Toronto.

“I’m makin this post to let you all know that we have stopped building Tiny Shelters but will continue to do maintenance and relocating of shelters as people staying outside get into housing,” Seivwright said on his GoFundMe page on Feb. 11.

There are seven shelters with COVID-19 outbreaks with 115 people testing positive for the virus. A COVID-19 variant has recently made its way inside a shelter, the City said.

In 2020, Toronto Fire Services responded to 253 fires in encampments – a 250 percent increase over the same period in 2019.

So far this year, there have been 27 fires in encampments. Fires in encampments pose not only a danger to those living in encampments but also to first responders and the broader community,” the City confirmed recently.

“People who rely on the shelter system no longer trust it,” Seivwright said. “The City’s reputation is terrible when it comes to providing safe and available shelters. We need to work together to support our vulnerable residents.”

With files from The Canadian Press

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