Kamloops News

Social media mixup benefits homeless man with inspirational message

Michael O'Shea in front of Frenchies Poutinerie where $1,631.24 was raised to buy him a new cart.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Frenchies Poutinerie

KAMLOOPS - Not very often does misinformation on social media lead to something good, but that is exactly what happened over the weekend in Kamloops.

When Frenchies Poutinerie owner Elie-Toni Hanna heard that a homeless man he knows well, Michael O'Shea, had his shopping cart taken away by city officials, the small business owner decided something had to be done.

Hanna set aside three hours on Sept. 10 and used social media to tell the public during that time all the proceeds from his sales would go towards buying a new cart. The support was so overwhelming he ran out of food in just two hours.

"The line up was out the door and down the sidewalk and it was constant like that until I ran out of food," he says. "When I ran out there was still at least 20 or 30 people in line so we had to turn them down but throughout the day people kept showing up still."

Trouble is, that's not exactly what happened to O'Shea. It appears something was lost in translation; O'Shea was worried his cart would be taken away by city bylaw officers or RCMP officers who assured iNFOnews.ca they have no intentions of removing it. It took a little while for Hanna to unravel the full story and when he did, he went back to social media to clarify and explain.

"I had a few people messaging me with their concern which is completely understandable," he says. "There's a lot of shady people in this world I just wanted to be on top of it and show I'm not a shady person."

Many Kamloops residents recognize O'Shea for the messages he put on his cart.
Many Kamloops residents recognize O'Shea for the messages he put on his cart.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Frenchies Poutinerie

Hanna says he was overwhelmed by the support for O'Shea. Customers had only had positive things to say about the man who is well known for displaying inspirational messages on his cart while hanging out in various locations downtown.

Hanna raised $1,631.24 in store and there was social media support from as far away as Ireland. Hanna says that money will be able to pay for a customized cart for O'Shea with some cash left over to provide other homeless people with some necessities.

"I told him that we raised more money than the cart will cost us and he said maybe a nice blanket would be good," Hanna says. "But then he wants the rest donated to someone else."

One of the lessons Hanna says he has learned from this is just how much shopping carts cost — as much as $900 each. For that money he decided he could work with a contractor to build one specific to O'Shea's needs.

"Usually when he has his cans, it leaks through the cart onto his blanket and stuff and it gets all sticky," Hanna explains. "Now we're going to build a cart with hooks for his bags so his things don't get wet or dirty."

So what will happen to the cart O'Shea has used for the past 12 years? Hanna says it will be returned to the grocery store it was taken from over a decade ago.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Mike McDonald or call 250-819-3723 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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