Homelessness is a problem in nearly every city in the world. There is not one sure-fire solution to getting people off the streets. In Toronto, Canada, which experiences cold and snowy winters, providing homes for the homeless that are safe and warm is difficult. A resident carpenter started building tiny wooden shelters for these people, that is until the city sued him. (1)
Man Building Homes for the Homeless Sued By City
Khaleel Seivwright is a carpenter in Toronto, Canada. He put his skills to work to help provide warm shelters for the homeless residents of the city. On February 12, however, the city filed for an injunction against him and anyone else building shelters and encampments around the city. (1)
They claim that the shelters are a fire hazard and that they deter people from using city-run shelters and, from there, permanent housing. Khaleel, along with many other advocates, says this is untrue. (1)
COVID Making Homes for the Homeless a Problem
Despite the city’s and individual shelter’s efforts to make these spaces safe during the coronavirus pandemic, outbreaks at shelters continue to be a problem. Many people choose to stay out in the cold rather than go to a shelter for fear of catching the virus. (1)
This is what has been driving people to stay in make-shift encampments, including tents, tiny homes, and other structures. The city’s Streets to Homes teams have been out every night offering to take people to shelters, but still, many of them prefer not to go. (1)
Khaleel says that the people he has talked to, which is a lot, have lost trust in Toronto’s shelter system. (1)
“The problem is not the tiny shelters. The problem is that Toronto’s most vulnerable people are falling through the cracks,” he says. (1)
Fires Are A Problem
There was a 250% increase of encampment fires in 2020 from 2019, again, likely due to people being afraid of catching COVID in shelters. There have been 27 so far in 2021, and one causing a fatality. (2)
The city claims that there are enough spaces for everyone in shelters; however, they have said they are running nearly full capacity. (2) If you ask activists or people who’ve spent a night in a shelter, and they’ll tell you differently. (3)
The city says that people living in these tiny homes lack access to the resources that shelters provide. This includes protection from overdosing and getting help with their addictions. (3)
Toronto is Ignoring the Benefits
While no solution is perfect, advocates for tiny homes for the homeless say that Toronto is ignoring the potential for good that these small shelters have. (3)
“People are dying all over the place at city-run facilities,” says Simone Schmidt, co-founder and member of Encampment Support Network. “It’s painful to see the city weaponize the (threat of fire) against the life-saving capacity that tiny shelters have, because the amount of lives that they have saved is huge at this point.” (3)
The city continues to stand by its by-law that prevents structures like tents and tiny homes from being put up in parks, sidewalks, roads, and other city properties. Instead, they want to encourage Toronto’s homeless residents to use the shelter system and continue to put time, money, and attention into affordable, supportive housing and transitional housing. (2)
While these are important, people like Khaleel still don’t feel like the city is doing enough. Particularly given the circumstances this year, they believe that they should be allowed to use their skills to provide more warm shelters where people can sleep at night. (3)
Keep Reading: Los Angeles Just Opened A Tiny Homes For The Homeless
- “Khaleel’s Statement, February 22.” Youtube. Toronto Tiny Shelters. February 22, 2021.
- “City of Toronto serves notice on illegal structures in parks.” Toronto. February 19, 2021.
- “He Built Homes for the Homeless. So the City Sued Him.” Vice. Jake Kivanç. February 23, 2021.