British Columbia

It's hard to find a gym when you're homeless. So Shane Knight built one in the woods

Shane Knight doesn’t have a fixed address but if you’re ever looking for him, the gym is a good place to start.

Homeless man builds workout station at tent city where he lives in Surrey

Shane Knight, 39, works out on his handmade exercise machine at Sanctuary City, a tent encampment in Surrey, British Columbia on August 8, 2019. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Shane Knight doesn't have a fixed address but if you're ever looking for him, the gym is a good place to start.

He's a health nut who wears heavy chains around his neck when he does dips and carries protein powder with him in a Ziploc bag.

Knight, 39, is as dedicated to fitness as anyone you'll find anywhere, but working out has become more difficult in recent years — it's hard to find a gym when you're homeless.

Always the problem solver, he decided to build his own workout centre in the bush.

"Even if we gotta go through a log like Fred Penner to the other side and there's a gym," he said. "Whatever, right?"

Knight is referring to Fred Penner, a guitar-playing children's entertainer whose TV show, Fred Penner's Place, ran on CBC from 1985 to 1997. In an opening sequence to the show, Penner crawls through a hollow artificial log into a clearing in the woods where he spends the next half hour entertaining.

Knight made weights out of car rims and attached them to a wooden bar. (Ben Nelms/CBC) (Ben Nelms/CBC)

'Very creative'

Knight lives in an encampment in a wooded area off Johnston Hill near the Pattullo Bridge in Surrey with about 15 other people.

Wanda Stopa, who lives at the camp with Knight, says everyone loves the workout station that looks like a wooden version of a Bowflex or Total Gym.

"We're very proud of him in here," she said. "He's very creative."

Knight says he built the workout centre so that he could help other people at the camp get in shape.

"I made friends really fast," he said. "I think maybe I could motivate some of these guys to start working out."

Knight, 39, does dips on the exercise machine he built out of discarded materials. (Ben Nelms/CBC) (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The gym

Knight also made a bench press bar out of a slender piece of wood. He fastened discarded rims from cars on each end that serve as weights. 

Finding parts for the pull down machine was much more difficult. 

"Every day of the month for two months, eight hours a day, I did nothing but go and look for parts and stash them somewhere," he said. "I cut them with my little dollar store handsaw."

He says he found the materials in junk piles and spent hours cutting, sanding and crafting them into a gym.

"It was the hardest thing I ever did," he said. "It almost broke me, man. But I did it."


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