homeless shelters toronto

A Toronto carpenter is building insulated mini-shelters for homeless people

Winter is notoriously difficult for underhoused residents in cities like Toronto, where temperatures reach deadly lows and shelters are almost always at capacity.

Frigid temperatures can produce life or death situations for people experiencing homelessness, 128 of whom died within city limits last year.

With a global pandemic now thrown into the mix, further compounding what was already a raging affordable housing crisis, advocates are growing concerned for the safety of vulnerable Toronto residents — residents who, thanks to COVID-19, are more vulnerable than ever before.

The City of Toronto announced earlier this month that it would be adding 560 new shelter and respite spaces to its system in time for the winter of 2020-2010. This will bring the total number of shelter spaces available across the city to 6,700.

And yet, experts estimate that more than 10,000 people in Toronto are currently experiencing homelessness. So where do the thousands of others go?

A 28-year-old carpenter has devised what seems like a suitable solution, at least for now, while government officials work to increase permanent affordable housing for all.

Khaleel Seivwright is building "durable insulated tiny shelters for homeless people across Toronto who might be living outside this winter."

"These tiny shelters are designed to be mainly heated by body heat," writes Seivwright. "And because of their size and the insulation value of the walls ceiling and floor just body heat alone should be enough to keep the shelter around 16 degrees Celsius in -20 temperatures."

The young Scarborough native has has taken it upon himself to start building these temporary shelters out of a rented garage in Cabbagetown.

While his time is donated, an active GoFundMe campaign is helping the carpenter purchase building materials.

Each structure costs roughly $1,000 to build with brand new material, according to Seivwright, but all are obviously distributed for free.

Seivwright told the CBC that it takes him about eight hours to build one insulated shelter and that he has so far dropped off two of them in "out-of-the-way locations around Toronto."

As of Tuesday afternoon, the project's GoFundMe campaign had raised nearly $30,000 — well over the initial goal of $20,000, and closer to a point where Seivwright could potentially build his shelters full-time.

In addition to money, Seivwright is accepting donations of building materials, a full list of which can be viewed here.

"I'm excited to do this because I know it can work. I love designing and building different, interesting ideas and I know it might help at least a few people get through this winter who might not, and others in the future as well," wrote Seivwright in his GoFundMe campaign bio.

And much to the delight of his donors and community, he's been posting progress photos of the tiny shelters as he builds them every step of the way. Since starting the GoFundMe on September 17, he's posted 21 updates with photos of the structures and, sometimes, their new inhabitants.

"As shelters are usually at capacity at some point in the winter in Toronto and also because of this coronavirus, making space to allow for social distancing will put even more strain on Toronto's capacity," writes the carpenter.

"For some its more difficult to find a shelter that can accommodate them and their pets or belongings and others refuse to be in shelters for other reasons. I am building these shelters for those that will live outside this winter."

Lead photo by

Khaleel Seivwright

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