Fake Leaside homeless shelter received mixed reviews

A campaign to end homelessness in Canada causes a stir in the Leaside neighbourhood.
A campaign to end homelessness in Canada caused a stir in the Leaside neighbourhood. (Courtesy of Raising the Roof)

A campaign attempting to raise awareness about homelessness has received mixed-emotions from residents of a wealthy Toronto neighbourhood.

On Oct. 3, Leaside residents were surprised to find a sign on a boarded storefront on Bayeview Avenue notifying them a homeless shelter would be opening on Nov. 1. They were even more surprised when they discovered it was all a hoax and their reactions had been recorded by a hidden video camera.

The organization plans to release the video to their website and social media channels on Monday, Oct. 12.

“Our intention in releasing the video next week is to spark a nation-wide conversation about homelessness and the need for affordable housing prior to the election on October 19th,” said Caitlin Boros, communication manager at Raising the Roof, the charity behind the campaign.

“All individuals depicted in the footage will be made anonymous, and so will the location; it will look like it could be any Canadian community,” Boros added.

Leaside residents took to Twitter to discuss the campaign, a number of them, despite promises of anonymity, expressing displeasure with the organization’s choice of location.

Even Councillor John Burnside weighed in on the signs location, alleging Leaside wasn’t picked at random.

“What they did is boil the issue down to an ostensibly rich neighbourhood and what their opinion is about homelessness,” Burnside said in an interview with CP24. “I really don’t think it’s just a rich-poor issue. Homelessness is a lot more complex.”

Boros said the organization did not specifically target the Leaside community and that it was chosen based on “primarily logistical reasons.”

“It had a large enough, vacant storefront that we were able to secure for the time we needed and it was in a neighbourhood where homelessness is less visible, as opposed to a downtown location,” Boros said.

However, not all Leaside residents were against the idea of a shelter in their community, some even took to Twitter to discuss it.

Boros said the goal of the campaign was not just to raise awareness, but to spark a conversation they hope will have a real impact in the upcoming election.

“We need the support of communities across the country in engaging government at all levels in a call for a national housing strategy,” Boros said.

“Together, we can put an end to homelessness in Canada.”