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A Fake Homeless Shelter In A Rich Toronto Neighbourhood Made Locals Freak Out

"You’re ruining a perfect neighbourhood."

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The homelessness charity Raising The Roof alarmed residents of a wealthy Toronto neighbourhood when it posted a sign on a vacant building announcing a new homeless shelter.

Raising The Roof

Workers put up the sign on a boarded-up storefront in early October.

But the whole thing was a hoax, meant to get people talking about the problem of homelessness and how to combat it.

Raising The Roof / Via youtube.com

Residents quickly took notice of the planned shelter, which would have 62 beds and be run by a volunteer staff of three.

Ted Stuebing, who runs the community news site The South Bayview Bulldog, told Metro News that many residents called him to complain about the planned shelter.

“People were very upset, people were crying,” Stuebing told Metro.

Raising The Roof, which had left a contact number for the fake homeless shelter, recorded some of the reactions it got and released them in a video for the campaign.

Raising The Roof

Some callers voiced concerns about property values in Leaside, while others said the homeless people would ruin the neighbourhood.

“How did you possibly, possibly get the permission to ruin a neighbourhood by putting a homeless shelter in here?” one caller asked.

"You know that these are all drug addicts and drunks. You're ruining a perfect neighbourhood."

Another caller declared herself "a very tolerant person" but said the homeless shelter was "going over the edge."

Leaside is one of Toronto's richest areas, according to a 2011 neighbourhood profile by the city (PDF).

City of Toronto

The median household income in the neighbourhood was $85,000 — about $23,000 higher than the citywide median income. Only 7% of residents were considered low-income, while the city's overall rate of low-income residents was 19%.

Raising The Roof eventually revealed the truth: There was no Jefferson Homeless Shelter, and there shouldn't be.

Raising The Roof

"We want to highlight that while we don’t want there to be a need to build shelters or initiate other short-term solutions, there continues to be a demand. Raising the Roof wants to bring attention to long-term solutions, and the right of every Canadian to have a safe place to call home," the organization said on its website.

Raising The Roof also said its intention wasn't "to prank a neighbourhood, but rather to get Canadians to feel something, react, and think about an issue that is so often overlooked."

Watch the Raising The Roof video for the Jefferson Homeless Shelter:

View this video on YouTube

youtube.com

Ishmael Daro is a social news editor for BuzzFeed and is based in Toronto.

Contact Ishmael N. Daro at ishmael.daro@buzzfeed.com.

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