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City reaches settlement with Toronto tiny shelter builder

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The City of Toronto has just announced that they have reached a court settlement with Mr. Khaleel Seivwright to permanently restrain Mr. Seivwright from placing and/or relocating tiny shelters built by Mr. Seivwright on City-owned land or otherwise creating a nuisance or interfering with the City’s rights in violation of the City of Toronto Municipal Code.

Under the terms of the settlement, Mr. Seivwright confirms he has no ownership interest in the tiny shelters and that he undertakes not to install any new tiny shelters on City land. He also agrees not to maintain or relocate any existing tiny shelters on City land.

The Minutes of Settlement can be viewed here Minutes of Settlement Seivwright

The City applied for a court injunction  with the Superior Court of Justice on February 12, 2021 to stop Mr. Seivwright from placing or relocating wooden structures on City property, including in parks and on City rights-of-way.

The City says, “These wooden structures are not legal dwellings and the City’s Parks Bylaw and Streets Use Bylaw prohibits camping and placing tents or structures on City property. The City’s right to enforce its Parks Bylaw was upheld by a court decision last fall by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. It is estimated that there were nearly 100 wooden shelter structures placed on City property at one time. Currently there are approximately nine wooden shelter structures remaining.”

Meanwhile, in an Instagram statement Sievright said, “The future of our city does not depend on ruthlessly enforcing policies that have no regard for the humans being who live here. It does not depend on squeezing anyone out who cannot afford rent.”

“The future of our city depends on cohesive, sustainable solutions that address the real issues: poverty, lack of affordable housing, and a broken shelter system,” said Sievright.

There are numerous fire safety risks that exist in encampments including fires, gasoline generators, propane tanks and lack of access to adequate means of fire suppression. Last night, an encampment fire sent one person to hospital with serious injuries.

On February 17, 2021 one person died in an encampment fire that involved a wooden structure. There have been several other similar fires without injury in 2021 involving this type of wooden structure.

The City says the structures are made of “combustible material, are confining, and difficult to escape from, they are unsuitable for human habitation. The quantity of combustibles frequently noted and observed inside these structures, combined with activities associated with the use of open flames, increases the probability and consequence of fire.”

To date in 2021, there have been 145 fire responses of which 85 were uncontrolled fires. In the past week (August 18 – 25), there have been three fires. In 2020, Toronto Fire Services responded to 253 fires in encampments – that is a 250 per cent increase over the same period in 2019. Fires in encampments pose not only a danger to those living in encampments, but also to first responders and the broader community.

As outlined in last June’s City Manager’s report to City Council, encampments contravene several chapters of the Municipal Code and are not a solution to homelessness. The health outcomes for people who stay outside are complex and serious. Individuals living in encampments are also at risk of contracting COVID-19. The report is available here .

The City says it is continuing to engage with people experiencing homelessness, including those at encampments, encouraging them to accept safe indoor space, offering them the supports they need and help to secure permanent housing. Streets to Homes staff have been doing this important work with people living outside long before the pandemic started and will continue to do it. More than 1,880 people staying in encampments have been referred to safe inside spaces since April 2020.

Since June 15, 206 people staying in encampments have been referred to safe inside space. Since last spring, the City has referred more than 832 people from Moss Park, Lamport Stadium, Alexandra Park and Trinity Bellwoods Park to safe indoor accommodation.

Since mid-December 2020, the City has opened more than 570 supportive homes as of July 2021. This includes new modular housing, acquisitions, as well as the City’s Rapid Rehousing Initiative that leverages Toronto Community Housing units. The City is aiming to open approximately 1,170 new permanent, affordable and supportive homes over the next 18 months, with about 1,000 ready for occupancy by the end of 2021 and the remainder by spring 2022. Currently 82 projects are in the City’s affordable rental development pipeline, which will create 10,676 new, permanently affordable rental homes once completed.

To this end, over the last several months the City has announced nine new supportive housing projects consisting of more than 700 new homes across the city. The new housing will be developed through acquisition and renovation of existing properties or modular construction on City-owned or controlled lands. A map and information is available online.

Bringing people inside means there are fewer people experiencing homelessness living outdoors and exposed to higher health and safety risks. Supportive housing offers a warm, safe place to call home; the necessities of life such as food, washrooms, and laundry facilities; and the opportunity for strengthened community connections.

More than 17,525 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered to people experiencing homelessness and those precariously housed, and to staff working in the shelter sector. As of August 16, 64 per cent of people staying in the City’s shelter system that week had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and 48 per cent of people staying in the City’s shelter system that week received the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Additional information:

  • All shelter locations have had at least one vaccine clinic on site.
  • There are more than 6,000 shelter spaces in the city today.
  • City and partner agency staff have engaged more than 20,000 times with people living outside, including those staying in encampments since July 2020.
  • There has been only one active outbreak in the City’s shelter system since June 8.
  • Nearly 6,333 people experiencing homelessness moved from the shelter system into permanent housing from April 2020 to July 2021.
  • Since December 2020, the City has opened more than 570 supportive homes.
  • 1,170 new permanent, affordable and supportive homes will open over the next 18 months.
  • There are 82 projects in the City’s affordable rental development pipeline, which will create 10,676 new, permanently affordable rental homes once completed.
  • The City has budgeted to spend $663.2 million on Homelessness and Housing First solutions in 2021, almost double the amount spent in 2019 at $365.8 million.

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