Kingston resident reconstructs ‘hut’ as art piece about homelessness

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A Kingston, Ont., resident has erected an art piece in her yard as a reminder of the difficulties that the unhoused community face while living on the streets – May 9, 2022

If you’re passing by the Rideau and Charles Streets area, you may notice a new addition to the yard of one resident’s home.

A recreation of a hut used to keep an unhoused Kingstonian warm is now on display as a reminder to the community.

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“We just thought that it would be important to remind people and the public what people have to go through when experiencing homelessness,” says Kingston resident and advocate Chrystal Wilson.

The idea is also to help the hut’s original creator, who wishes to remain anonymous for his daughter’s protection, close the door on his experience and move forward. He built the structure during a cold winter in the woods.

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“There was a factory at the end of the road where I was staying in the bush there, and I asked them if I could grab a couple of skids off them that were out by the dumpster,” the builder says.

“I just started grabbing pieces here and there and slowly put it together in the course of three or four days,” he recalls. “I had it all built and it was better than sleeping on the ground outside.”

Wilson was moved by a sign that went along with one of the shelters that she first happened across in the Centennial area.

It reads in part, “If you are hungry, eat. If you’re wet, get dry. If you’re cold, get warm. And if you’re homeless, stay until you’re not. This shelter saved my life in the winter of 2020. Please don’t destroy it or steal what little I have left in life.”

A sign left in the woods by the hut builder, welcoming those in need to use his shelter. CKWS TV / Megan King

Wilson says the sign touched her.

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“It was somebody being really generous when they had nothing at all to give, but were willing to give what they had,” she says.

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For the builder, the recreation of his hut is a message to others facing homelessness.

“If there’s anybody walking around getting frostbite, losing their toes and freezing to death, I hope they can just look at that and get an idea of some type of a shelter similar to stay warm in.”

Wilson says that now that the hut builder has stability as a resident with the sleeping cabin program, he’s well on his way to getting back on his feet and moving forward.

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