There are some people who always throw starfish back into the ocean, as the old story goes. Such is the case with Khaleel Seivwright, the young Torontonian carpenter who decided to apply his own humble means towards helping the homeless population of his city survive a brutal winter, offering them basic but better living conditions.
Seivwright’s initial intentions to protect Toronto’s expanding homelessness rate – a crisis only worsened by the conditions brought about during the 2020 pandemic – were straightforward and genuine: create a small, insulated shelter home which would offer warmer conditions than a tent. Built on casters with walls lined with residential-grade insulation, the Tiny Shelters were transportable and somewhat scalable, with Seivwreight spending approximately 8 hours of work and $1,000 CAD of material for each unit.
The carpenter began his process back in September, and a few small gestures eventually turned into something of a Canadian cause célèbre. Part of this may be due to the emerging friction with city departments; initial contact seemed supportive of Seivwright’s mission, but interference via a cease & decist issued by the Parks, Forestry, and Recreation Department shined more attention to the complexity of the problem these shelters sought to address. This is partially due to their presence in city parks, where officials have stated that they could be removed under trespassing ordinances.
Beyond the matter of warmth, Seivwright’s Tiny Shelters feature a lockable door, a window, fire and carbon monoxide alarms. He has been open and public with his building progress throughout, but also realizes that his aims target a simple goal within a larger, more complex issue. Regardless, even as Toronto attempts to build more shelter services to provide for its homeless, COVID safety for immune-compromised individuals and the potential dangers of the shelter system make the Tiny Shelters a potentially safer option for some, and definitely safer than a tent in an encampment.
Luckily, increased media attention has proven fruitful via a GoFundMe, which was set up to maintain continued construction of Toronto Tiny Shelters. At time of this writing, over $185,000 has been donated to the cause, which has helped Seivwright secure material costs and better workshop facilities as he crafts and distributes more shelters. Frequent updates on his progress can be found at that page, and any city pushback has seemingly done little to dissuade him from his project, making a massive impact, one small home at a time.