Since late 2020, carpenter Khaleel Seivwright has built several shelters for homeless people. The City of Toronto, however, stopped him through legal action.
While Seivwright received praise from the public, the local administration decided to stop his good deed.
The Reasons Behind The Legal Action
Seivwright started building wooden shelters in the autumn of 2020. Through successful online fundraising, he received over $222,000 for materials and tools.
However, on the 12th of February, the City of Toronto took legal action to stop him. They claim it to be illegal dumping of wood structures on city grounds.
The application also mentions a risk for fires in the wooden structures. In fact, the number of emergency calls for encampment fires raised sharply in the last year.
On top of that, they insist that shelters could prevent homeless people from using the city's housing facilities. The name of Seivwright appears in the legal documents as well.
Assisted by his lawyers, the carpenter released a statement replying to the application. He commented that:
"Money the City is spending to attack [him] could be put into safe housing for those that need it."
For him, this was a temporary solution to the problems homeless people face daily. He continued:
"Instead of working with me, the City sued to stop me from building and relocating the tiny shelters. 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 Is Not Suing Seivwright
The city made clear that they are not suing Seivwright. Spokesperson Brad Ross explained that they are:
"Seeking an injunction to stop placing or relocating wooden structures in parks and rights-of-way".
He also clarified:
"The City is not suing Mr. Seivwright. The City is not suing anyone. The City is also concerned with statements made to move or relocate structures elsewhere in parks. The injunction speaks to this issue, in addition to any future illegal placement of new structures."
According to Ross, the city-run facilities already offer enough accommodation. He added that the shelters could complicate a transition to city-funded permanent housing.
If the application is successful, Seivwright will not be able to build other shelters nor move the existing ones.
However the hearing goes, we can only hope that the needs of homeless people will be the first priority.