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Leo Burnett Toronto’s Fake Shelter Raises Awareness for Raising the Roof

Leo Burnett Toronto looked to ignite a conversation around homelessness with a thought-provoking installation for the nonprofit group Raising the Roof.

The agency made it appear as if a shelter would open in an upscale Toronto neighborhood. A vacant storefront was boarded up, with a sign announcing the arrival of a homeless shelter. Residents were able to take fliers that included a phone number for more information—and to leave a message.

While the “big reveal” came a day later, the agency was able to capture revealing not-in-my-backyard reactions from area residents, which can be heard in the film above.

The effort, timed a week before the recently concluded federal elections, looked to bring the homelessness issue to voters’ minds before going to the polls.

In an interview with Toronto Life, Creative Director Anthony Chelvanathan, said, “[W]e wanted to come up with an idea that would get people thinking about [the number of homeless nationwide]. We thought the timing was good, with the election coming up. We want people to talk about housing. Shelters are important, but they’re not a long-term solution.” (Read the full Q&A here. The effort has also appeared in the Huffington Post and Buzzfeed.)

Leo Burnett Toronto has been a partner with Raising the Roof, which works to create long-term solutions for 235,000 homeless Canadians, since 2010, and has created award-winning work on its behalf, including “Humans for Humans.”