Khaleel Seivwright, a carpenter from Toronto who has been putting his skill to use for good, is in trouble with the city he’s trying to help.
Seivwright has been building temporary shelters for some of Toronto’s most vulnerable for months now. He insulates each structure and includes both a fire and carbon monoxide detector as well as a fire extinguisher in each one. The shelters, while just temporary, are meant to provide relief and safety for Toronto’s unhoused population during the winter months.
“I gave the tiny shelters to the community to decide how best to use them and who needs them most,” Seivwright explained in a statement this week.
“Encampment residents tell me how important the tiny shelters have been—for safety, for privacy, for dignity. I hope there will be a day that the tiny shelters are no longer needed, but that day has not yet come,” he said.
On February 12, 2021, however, the City of Toronto filed an application with the Superior Court, specifically naming Seivwright and requesting he quilt building and placing these homemade shelters on city property. The order goes on to request a permanent restraining order against Seivwright that would legally stop him from “placing and/or relocating structures on City-owned land.”
Seivwright, however, sees this a waste of city resources.
“Instead of working with me, the City sued to stop me from building and relocating the tiny shelters,” said Seivwright. “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.”
The city, meanwhile, says it cares about its unhoused citizens. “The City remains focused on the safety of those in encampments and referring clients sleeping outdoors into safe indoor spaces,” reads a statement that was published to its Twitter account. The statement goes on to cite encampments safety risks, including fires, overdoses and lack of sanitation as some of their concerns.
But the application with the Superior Court remains and Seivwright’s legal team plans to fight it.
“We are prepared to go to court to ensure Mr. Seivwright can do this work and the tiny shelters remain available while people need them,” says Vinidhra Vaitheeswaran, Counsel to Seivwright (along with Danny Kastner of Kastner Lam LLP and Samara Secter of Addario Law Group).
Seivwright raised over $200,000 on GoFundMe to cover the construction costs, though the fundraiser is no longer accepting donations at this time.
“Mr. Seivwright’s hope is the City drops the application against him and works with him to ensure that unhoused people have safe places to sleep,” says Vaitheeswaran.