TORONTO — On his way to work on a construction site, Khaleel Seivwright surveyed the growing number of tents lining an intercity highway and in parks with increasing discomfort. How would these people survive Toronto’s damp, frigid winters, let alone the coronavirus, which had pushed so many out of overcrowded shelters?
He remembered the little shanty he had once built out of scrap wood while living on a commune in British Columbia.
So he hauled a new generator into his S.U.V., strapped $800 worth of wood onto the vehicle’s roof and drove down into one of the city’s ravines in the middle of the night to build another one: a wooden box — 7 feet 9 inches by 3 feet 9 inches — sealed with a vapor barrier and stuffed with enough insulation that, by his careful calculation, would keep it warm on nights when the thermometer dipped as low as minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit.
He put in one window for light, and attached smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Later, he taped a note to the side that read, “Anyone is welcome to stay here.”
more than $200,000 in donations. He has hauled them to parks across Toronto where homeless encampments have slumped into place — jarring reminders of the pandemic’s perversely uneven effects.
Encampment Support Network, dropping off food and supplies to people living in camps that now number 75, with up to 400 inhabitants, the government estimates.
He started a petition urging the city not to remove his shelters from the parks — an effort that to date has received almost 100,000 signatures. Many others followed, penned by health care providers, musicians, church groups, lawyers, academics, artists and authors.
“I’ve become the face of something that is a lot bigger than me,” he said.