Someone Lives Here: A fight for affordable housing

Graphic: James Fay/The Concordian

The documentary depicts one man’s efforts to heal his city.

Concordia’s Cinema Politica hosted the Montreal premiere of the documentary Someone Lives Here on Oct. 2. Producer Zack Russell and protagonist Kahleel Seivright attended the event and took part in a Q&A after the screening. 

The documentary was shot in Toronto during the pandemic. Homelessness had increased dramatically during that time and winter was coming. Kahleel Seivright, a carpenter from Toronto, decided to start building what he called “tiny shelters,” which are insulated wooden boxes big enough to fit an adult and started distributing them in Toronto parks. The tiny shelters were designed to retain body heat. People without housing could therefore keep warm during the night instead of sleeping outside in the snow or under tents. 

His project quickly attracted attention and generated a lot of media coverage as well as generous donations through GoFundMe. During the winter of 2021, he built about 100 tiny shelters and planned to keep going. However, the city of Toronto decided to forbid the distribution of tiny shelters and got rid of every single one of them the following summer. 

The movie raises many questions regarding big cities’ management of the housing crisis. It depicts suffering and gives a voice to those who are neglected and rejected by society. It highlights the unfair distribution of resources and the challenges people face when trying to get off the streets, such as the lack of social workers, the limited and insufficient space in homeless shelters, stigmatization, and unaffordable housing. It is a hard watch,  as stated by a woman in the audience who was holding back tears.

Even though the movie ends on a discouraging note, Seivright and Russell made a point of telling the audience after the screening that they are working on new projects and are continuing to fight for better resources to help people who are suffering from the housing crisis.

“The ongoing conversation needs to be about why housing is continuing to be so expensive, [ …] regardless of the majority of people’s ability to afford it,” Seivright said on Instagram on the night of the premiere. He encouraged everyone to join him in his fight for affordable housing, saying that if everybody does their part, things will inevitably change.
Seivright also hosts the podcast Someone Lives Here, available on YouTube. It consists of interviews of people’s experience with homelessness and helps spread awareness.

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