khaleel seivwright

Tiny shelter builder Khaleel Seivwright asks Toronto to drop legal action against him

Khaleel Seivwright, the carpenter who the City of Toronto is suing for the fact that the tiny shelters he constructs for residents experiencing homelessness have ended up on city property, has released an official video statement today on the contentious matter that has led to public outcry in recent weeks.

"The City of Toronto has a housing crisis. This pandemic has made it worse," Seivwright starts off, facing the camera directly."With winter approaching, I knew that without shelter people would die, as they do in Toronto every year. I started building tiny shelters so that some of the most vulnerable could have somewhere warm to go."

He goes on to detail how his insulated temporary shelters, which cost about $1,000 to make, have helped those in the tent encampments that have expanded greatly over the course of the health crisis, especially now that City-run shelters are often at capacity and the 24-hour places people could once use to escape the elements are largely shuttered.

"[But] instead of working with me, the city sued to stop me from building and relocating the tiny shelters," Seivwright continues frankly. 

"This is a distraction. The problem is not the tiny shelters. The problem is that Toronto's most vulnerable people are falling through the cracks."

Despite the fact that tens of thousands of Torontonians have demanded that the structures be allowed and that hundreds of thousands of dollars have been raised to help build them, the city has indeed applied for a court injunction "to stop those who are building unsafe wooden structures and illegally depositing them on city property."

The key concerns are ones of safety, especially due to the terrifying number of encampment fires that there have been lately, and the flammability of certain insulating materials.

"The city has not issued permits or in any way consented to the placing of these structures on its property," Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation wrote in a letter to the 28-year-old builder and advocate in November.

"The City of Toronto therefore demands that you immediately cease the production, distribution, supply and installation of such shelters for the purposes of placement and use on city property. Should you fail to do so, the city may, among other remedies, hold you responsible for the costs of removal of such structures."

That communication was followed by the more formal court action through the Superior Court of Justice just this week.

"The City remains focused on the safety of those in encampments and referring clients sleeping outdoors into safe indoor spaces," the city said in a formal release on Feb. 19.

"The city's operating divisions have serious safety concerns with these structures... there are numerous safety risks that exist in encampments including fires, gasoline generators, propane tanks, overdose, and lack of access to water and sanitation."

But, as Seivwright boldly states in his video response, "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."

He aptly continues: "The city of Toronto should drop its application against me and focus its resources and efforts on what matters — getting people safely housed."

Lead photo by

Toronto Tiny Shelters

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