Meet the homeless man who built Abbotsford's 'amazing' shopping cart bridge

Shane Patmore is working tirelessly to build a community — complete with bridges and comfortable places for people to sleep — for Abbotsford's homeless population.

Shane Patmore hopes he can tear down stereotypes about the homeless by building bridges

Tyler Kelly (left) and Shane Patmore (right) built this bridge out of discarded wood and shopping carts they found in the bushes. (Jesse Johnston/CBC)
Shane Patmore hopes the projects he has built in Abbotsford will change stereotypes about homeless people in his community. (Jesse Johnston/CBC)

Around the many homeless camps in the woods near Highway 1 and Lonzo Road in Abbotsford, Shane Patmore is known as the man who builds things.

Since he moved into a tent near the railroad tracks, Patmore has created several projects that have impressed everyone from the media to Abbotsford police officers.

His latest venture — a pedestrian bridge over a rushing creek made out of discarded shopping carts and wooden pallets — is so well constructed that dozens of people cross it every day.

"We had an old bridge there with just a bunch of planks and stuff and people kept falling in the water," he said.

"It kept getting washed away and it became difficult to cross so we found a bunch of shopping carts. We thought if we built something sturdy out of shopping carts, people would be able to cross no matter what."

Tyler Kelly says he's amazed by the design Patmore came up with for the bridge. (Jesse Johnston/CBC)

The bridge works well because the water flows right through the carts without washing them away.

"I think it's amazing because he did a great job building it," said Patmore's brother Tyler Kelly, who helped build the bridge — which police say will have to be dismantled so the carts can be returned.

"It's pretty sturdy and it helps everybody out."

Patmore has also designed mini communities near the bridge for friends, acquaintances and people who are just passing through.

The clusters of makeshift homes — some of which include showers, stoves and comfortable beds — blend into the trees around them so well that they're almost impossible to detect from road above.

"Most of the camps are built with barrier walls, fencing, logs or whatever we can find," he said.

"When people can sleep comfortably without being bothered it goes a long way and we've been thanked plenty of times."

The shopping carts at the base of the bridge allow for water to pass underneath and keep the structure from washing away. (Mike Zimmer/CBC)

Changing stereotypes

Patmore says he's pleased his bridge has received so much attention because it might change how others feel about the homeless people who live in the area.

"We're in a battle out here to get support from people, so doing things like this and having a clean area might show people that we care," he said.

"Maybe they'll respect what we do and what we're going through."

Patmore says he's met many talented people in the homeless community who are down on their luck.

"It's tough times for everybody," he said.

"My house burned to the ground about two months ago and that's what put me in this position. Once you lose it, it's hard to get back."

Part of the base is made from shopping carts stacked together and turned on their sides. (Mike Zimmer/CBC)