Toronto Carpenter is Building Insulated Shelters for the Homeless

The shelters will keep people warm in what is expected to be a cold winter.


A tiny shelter under construction. (Courtesy Khaleel Seivwright)

Winter is almost here and in Canada, that means very cold weather. It also means bundling up outdoors and staying indoors more. Nothing is more relaxing than drinking hot cocoa by a fireplace and watching the snow falling outside.

But for people who don’t have homes to warm up in, Canadian winters can be treacherous. That’s why Khaleel Seivwright, a carpenter in Toronto is building and giving away tiny portable shelters to people who are homeless according to CTV News.

He told CTV that he wanted to build “something that would be useful for people that are staying outside this winter.” He knows they work because he built the first one for himself a few years ago in British Columbia and it kept him warm in -15 degrees Celsius. Seivwright has already dropped off two shelters.

The tiny shelters are built of wood, insulated with home insulation and have a door and a window. They have caster wheels to make them portable and each one has a smoke detector to keep occupants safe. There is just enough room for a person to lie down in it. Each of the homes cost around $1,000 to build.

To help pay for the shelters that Seivwright calls “Toronto Tiny Shelters”, he set up a GoFundMe that has already raised $114,772. He also accepts donations of building materials and is looking for warehouse space to store the materials.

Seivwright regularly posts updates on the page. On October 16, Seivwright wrote: “Got a chance to see Ritchie today at the shelter. He says he’s doing good.”

Toronto winters are difficult even without the coronavirus pandemic. The shelters are already full and the city’s homeless are living in tents. The city has 6,800 shelter beds, according to CBC Canada News, and opens 560 additional places in the winter.  Still, last year 128 homeless people in Toronto died.

Cathy Crowe, a long-time street nurse, told CBC  that the city vastly underestimates the number of people who sleep outdoors, and she expects that figure to be higher than ever this winter as more people run out of COVID-19 emergency benefits and lose their homes.

“It's going to be catastrophic. We have not yet seen the wave of evictions from people in unstable, unaffordable housing,” she told CBC. “People are trickling into homelessness now, but it's going to be like nothing we've ever seen in our lifetime.”

Gord Tanner, director of homelessness initiatives and prevention at Toronto’s Shelter, Support and Housing Administration said, "We're very committed as we head into fall and winter and colder weather, to provide pathways for those individuals to come indoors to safe spaces.”

Crowe does not believe that the city will be able to open enough shelter beds this winter and that out-of-the box solutions like the tiny shelters are going to have to happen to help the homeless.

Even though the shelters do not meet city codes, Seivwright said he will continue to build them so people will not freeze on the streets. He said, "This is what I know how to do, this is what seems to be viable, so I'm going to continue to do this.”

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