Toronto Homeless Crack Down

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Toronto Homeless Crack Down

The City of Toronto is cracking on the homeless as the weather turns deathly cold. "Street nurse Cathy Crowe says: 'I've always opposed this kind of structure or solution ( tiny mobile shelters for unhoused people). And in the last month, I've done a complete 360 because I really feel the city is failing drastically and that this is a life-saving measure.' "

The City of Toronto has sent a warning letter to a Toronto carpenter who is building tiny mobile shelters for unhoused people ahead of winter and it says it could take legal action if the structures remain on city property.

But Khaleel Seivwright, 28, a Scarborough resident, said he is determined to keep building the insulated structures, known as Toronto Tiny Shelters, and is already planning a workaround to avoid legal action from the city. 

Any new shelters he builds will be placed on private property and there are churches already willing to house them on their grounds.

"At first, I was pretty upset about it," Seivwright said on Saturday about the city's warning. "Then I was collecting myself and realizing that OK, we still have to build these things. There's still going to be people that need them, regardless of what the city is saying about them. We just find a way to work around this now."

After initial positive talks with the city regarding a possible partnership, Seivwright was served with the formal written warning in a letter dated Nov. 19 from Janie Romoff, general manager of the city's parks, forestry and recreation division.

Romoff said there are 10 shelters built by Seivwright currently on city property at several locations. "The city has not issued permits or in any way consented to the placing of these structures on its property," Romoff said in the letter. "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." ...

Seivwright said the shelters are safe and outfitted with carbon monoxide detectors and smoke alarms. The walls of each shelter are lined with a thick layer of fibreglass insulation normally used in residential construction. There is a door, a small casement window and spinning caster wheels at each corner of the base. The whole thing costs about $1,000 in new material and takes Seivwright eight hours to construct.

Seivwright said he sees the shelters as a temporary alternative for people who would otherwise be sleeping in tents or under tarps and blankets. He is paying for the project largely through a GoFundMe online fundraising campaign, where he has so far collected $129,700.

Street nurse Cathy Crowe, for her part, said she sees Seivwright as a "hero" and she was angry to hear he received a warning letter from the city. He is aiding people who are suffering, she added. Crowe, who used to oppose this kind of structure, said she has completely changed her mind in the last month. "I really feel the city is failing drastically and that this is a life-saving measure," Crowe said.

Crowe said there are an estimated 1,000 people sleeping outside in Toronto right now during the pandemic.  Without more hotel rooms, rent supplements or housing allowances provided by the city and a provincial ban on evictions, people need somewhere safe to stay, she said.

Seivwright said of his shelters: "It should be considered as a part of the solution instead of something that needs to be removed." ...

The city estimates the number of people in Toronto encampments is between 400 and 500 and it said open flames, generators, propane tanks as well as lack of access to water and sanitation increases health and safety risks for people in tents and nearby areas.

Toronto Fire Services has responded to reports of at least 189 encampment fires this year. "Encampments are not cleared until notice has been provided and everyone sleeping on-site is offered a safe, inside space. The City's Streets to Homes outreach team continues to engage with those living outside to encourage them to come inside," Robbinson added. Since mid-March, she said the city and its partners have referred nearly 1,100 people from encampments to inside spaces and the city is making available 560 additional spaces as part of its winter services plan.




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National Housing Day 2020

Chronicle 1/10

"Prior to COVID-19 there were more unhoused Canadians and more people in serious housing need than ever before. In January the 1,000th name was added to the Toronto Homeless Memorial. See thread.


"Khaleel Seivright has been building insulated mobile shelters for those experiencing homelessness. The city has instructed him to stop, but he tells us he plans to work around the rules."

Bravo Khaleel Seivright!

Fuck John Tory! Affordable housing or class war!

[email protected]


The fight against homelessness in Toronto is getting hotter. 

In Ontario, the battle for support for the homeless is only heating up. Activists staged a demonstration outside of the condo Toronto Mayor John Tory lives in on Sunday, constructing green “foam domes” as snow fell around them to highlight the need for more housing help.

Some shelters are trying to keep their residents safe by putting up glass dividers between beds, something that’s been done in Toronto’s Better Living Centre at Exhibition Place. The facility, part of the city’s winter plan for expanding shelter services, has been criticized by activists for the lack of privacy and the prison-like design.

In addition to the virus, worsening weather is a major concern for this housing crisis. Snow and dropping temperatures can turn living on the streets into a death sentence, even in a year without a deadly pandemic.

This leaves many of those experiencing homelessness with an impossible choice: try and find a space in a crowded shelter and risk contracting COVID-19, or stay in an outdoor encampment and risk the freezing weather. Many cities also have bylaws against encampments, and will issue eviction notices to tent residents as well.

Denton knows winter will be a challenge.

“I would rather not be living in my van, please,” she said.

Another hurdle is the hefty parking tickets she gets, just from having to park her van somewhere every night, one more example of the obstacles put in the way of those experiencing homelessness.


In contrast to Toronto and Canada, Finland has become the first country to adopt a national housing first approach to homelessness, finding homes for the homeless first before tackling other problems the homeless may face. 

There are more than a million empty homes in Canada and on any given night at least 35,000 Canadians are homeless. They pack into overflowing, often dangerous, shelters or they hunker down outside, hoping the elements will be kinder to them than the conditions indoor.

In the 1980s, a Canadian psychologist working in New York had an idea: maybe the best way to solve the problem of homelessness was to give people homes. Sam Tsemberis was one of the earliest proponents of a model known as Housing First. The idea was viewed as outlandish and unworkable. 

Skeptics argued that complex issues like addiction and mental health had to be addressed first before someone was a suitable candidate for long-term housing. How would the cost be justified to hardworking taxpayers?

But the idea has caught on.  Housing First projects have appeared in municipalities across Asia, Europe and North America, including Medicine Hat, Alta.

Now, Finland has become the first country to adopt a national housing first approach to homelessness.

Juha Kaakinen, CEO of Finland's largest housing nonprofit, the Y-Foundation, has been working in the area of homelessness and social welfare since the 1980s. He was one of the architects of Housing First — Finland's national plan. He spoke to The Sunday Edition's Michael Enright about how Finland eradicated homelessness. ...

You can call it a principle, a service model or a philosophy; the main thing is treating homeless people like everybody else — people who have the same rights and see housing as a human right. So the housing first principle means that you give a homeless person a home, a flat, or a  rental flat with a contract, without preconditions. You are not required to solve your problems or get sober, for example, to get a permanent home. And then, when you have this home, you can get support to solve your issues. This is a simple basic principle of housing first. ...

Finland succeeds where the rest of Europe did not A lot of progress has been made. We now have the lowest number of homeless. Our present government has decided that the rest of the homeless should be halved within the next four years and completely end by 2027.  We have had a constant policy of providing affordable, social housing. The state finances this. And in each new housing area, especially in the big cities, at least 25 per cent of housing must be affordable, social housing. This has kept the supply to a reasonable level. This has been probably the main reason why we don't have the kind of housing crisis that most European countries have at the moment. ...

How Housing First works

For example, in Helsinki, there is a service centre for homeless people. You can always go in, no matter your condition. It's probably the most similar to the shelters in other countries. But it's the only one, with 52 beds. You discuss your situation with a social worker and they try to arrange housing for you. They make an assessment, find out what your needs are.
 Affordable social housing stock is another option. For over 30 years, the Y-Foundation has been buying flats from the private market. We use these flats specifically as rental flats for homeless people. 

Maybe the most important structural change in Finland is that we've renovated our temporary accommodations in shelters and hostels into supported housing. For example, the last big shelter in Helsinki, run by the Salvation Army, had 250 beds. It was completely renovated in 2012. Now they have 81 independent, modern, apartments in that same building. They also have on-site staff for support. So this structural change has probably been the crucial thing that has led to this trend of decreasing homelessness.

The common thing for all homeless people is that they don't have a home. Everybody has their own story, their own history. They have their own resources. They may also have their own problems. For that reason, you have to make a very tailor-made plan for people, to provide adequate support. For example, if you have drug abuse problems, simply providing housing doesn't solve that kind of issue. You may need rehabilitation, detoxification, etc. These other elements are important. But to get these things done successfully, you must provide permanent housing. That way you can be sure that you are not kicked out the next morning and you can plan your life ahead.

Why the taxpayer argument doesn't hold up Keeping people homeless, instead of providing homes for them, is always more expensive for the society. In Finland we have some scientific evaluations of the cost of this program. When a homeless person gets a permanent home, even with support, the cost savings for the society are at least 15,000 Euros per one person per one year. And the cost savings come from different use of different services. 

In this study, they looked at the services that homeless people used when they were without a home. They calculated every possible thing: emergency healthcare, police, justice system, etc. They then compared that cost to when people get proper housing. And this was the result. I'm quite sure this kind of cost analysis can also be found for Canada.

Political understanding is crucial What has been crucial in Finland is that there has been a political understanding and political consensus: this is a national problem that we should solve together. Since 2008, we have had several governments with several different political coalitions. All these governments have decided to continue to work to end homelessness. This kind of political will — that's the starting point. It doesn't solve everything but it helps. I think that it demands politicians who have an understanding of human dignity. It doesn't require more. In Finland we have a very wide partnership. It has been a collaboration between the state, big cities and big NGOs working together towards the same goal.

Changing public attitude There are several ways you can affect public attitudes. Facts and research are good starting points. But it's always important to tell people stories of those whose lives have changed since they got housing. These things have an emotional impact on the general public. If there are willing former homeless people, who would like to tell their stories, this kind of human interest element is very powerful. But, of course there are very clear facts behind how it should be done and why we should speak about housing as human rights issue.


'You have to face the notion of homelessness with two children'

"What these tenants are experiencing is not unique or uncommon. Mass evictions are happening all over this city every day and residents are being pushed out of their homes with nowhere to go in the midst of winter and a pandemic..."

Too many Canadians have unfortunately become too well practiced at living well while ignoring the awful poverty or oppression of others.




Breaking: Incensed Torontonians set up outside Mayor John Tory’s luxury condominium to build makeshift shelters for community members he refuses to house.

— Shady Arms Dealer (@AlykhanPabani) November 22, 2020