toronto tiny shelters

People outraged as Toronto removes tiny shelter from city park

The City of Toronto removed a tiny, wooden, insulated shelter from a local park last night after filing an injuction against carpenter Khaleel Seivwright earlier this month to prevent him from continuing to build and place his structures on city-owned land.

Homelessness advocate Zoë Dodd took to Twitter late Wednesday night to report that workers, who also happen to be members of the CUPE union along with her, were removing the structure at the directive of the city. 

"I'm ashamed to be in the same union as you," she wrote. "You should be ashamed of the violence you enacted today when you stole someone's home and destroyed it with their belongings."

Dodd also shared a striking photo of workers pushing what was once sombody's home onto a vehicle and taking it away.

City spokesperson Brad Ross told blogTO it was removed because someone was tragically found deceased in the wooden structure Wednesday, adding that the city is not removing these shelters unless they have clearly been abandoned. 

"The City does not remove or destroy people's personal belongings," he said. 

Members of the public have been up in arms since the city announced it was officially taking legal action against Seivwright, something it had long been threatening to do, and the carpenter himself released a statement earlier this week asking the city to reverse its decision.

"The city of Toronto should drop its application against me and focus its resources and efforts on what matters — getting people safely housed," he said.

The city continues to argue that tiny shelters pose a safety risk to those experiencing homelessness as well as other Toronto residents, and Ross told blogTO that there's been a 250 per cent increase in encampment fires over 2019 as well as two fatalities related to encampment fires since the start of 2020.

But advocates have long countered that these makeshift shelters are often the best option in a city with a shelter system that is consistently at capacity and experiencing multiple COVID-19 outbreaks. 

And just last month, Seivwright created a short documentary about eight different people living in tiny shelters, each of whom said the structures had changed their lives for the better.

Still, the city appears to be unmovable in its stance, and advocates are now encouraging Toronto residents to send a letter to Mayor John Tory and their local city councillor calling for the shelters to stay and for resources and equipment to be made available to those living in outdoor encampments.

"The city must stop criminalizing unhoused people, and it must begin to treat them and their property with respect," reads the template

The letter calls on the city to drop the notice against Seivwright and refrain from pursuing future action against others who are providing aid, expropriate hotels and buildings in the downtown core to create rent-geared-to-income housing, ban encampment evictions and defund the police and parks ambassadors. 

"People who are finding pragmatic solutions for people's survival in the absence of permanent housing options from the city, like Khaleel, should be applauded, not reprimanded," reads the letter.

"I am writing to demand that the city drop their legal actions against Khaleel, impose a moratorium on encampment clearings, and repeal the by-laws that make it illegal to camp in public parks. Our tax dollars should not be spent on such punitive and harmful measures that aim to invisibilize homelessness."

Lead photo by

Fareen Karim

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