The COVID-19 pandemic brought to light many deficiencies in social supports for all but most importantly for those living with limited means, including lack of housing.
In Someone Lives Here, director Zack Russell follows carpenter Khaleel Seivwright who decides to take action to help unhoused people, living outside in Toronto during the winter of the pandemic, by building ‘tiny shelters’.
Seivwright’s efforts garner attention from Toronto citizens and also in other parts of the world as being quite commendable. A Go-Fund-Me campaign is started as well, and he even receives positive feedback from local government. Not surprising, soon after, the Toronto government retracts any suppport for the effort.
The government’s stance is that the shelters pose a fire hazard. In fact, Seivwright had put careful thought into the design for the ‘tiny shelters’ and built them with fire safety and insulation in mind. As a viewer, I experienced an array of emotions as I learned about the government hijacks to this effort. Full disclosure, I am biased on this issue. The way local officials decided to ‘deal’ with Seivwright’s mission to help his fellow citizens and dismantle the shelters seems, to me, inhumane and inefficient.
What is evident from the film is the need to humanize the experience of those who have the most need for social supports – especially access to housing. I appreciate how the film includes footage of Seivwright building the shelters, his back-and-forth with local officials, and narration by an unhoused person named Taka, who provides a first-person account about the impact this shelter had for her. This perspective is so very critical.
Someone Lives Here is a film that focuses on an individual’s efforts to help others in a time of dire need. It is also a film that will hopefully lead to engaged discussions about providing essential social supports to all citizens in a more equitable manner.