Putulik Qumaq has been widely praised for giving an apparently homeless teenager the coat off his back. 

But his own life experience makes the gesture even more remarkable.

Qumaq followed his mother to Montreal from Cape Dorset in Nunavut when he was just 21, and he has been living on the city's streets for 17 years. 

Although he has faced hardships and battled alcohol and drug addiction, those who know him say the act caught on camera reflects his kind and generous spirit.

'Trying to break out of that world'

A homeless man's selfless act1:07

Throughout his time on the streets, Qumaq has been coming to the Open Door homeless centre which operates out of St. Stephen's Anglican Church on the corner of Dorchester and Atwater avenues.

The centre provides daytime activities, food, clothing and access to the internet to the homeless.

"They help me a lot," Qumaq said of Open Door.

"Over the years, I've been struggling."

Qumaq says drug and alcohol use has been a problem throughout his life. 

Open Door's assistant director David Chapman says he sees Qumaq almost every day at the centre.

"It's not an easy road if you have been homeless for a while and you are trying to break out of that world. But he continually is making an effort to do that," Chapman said.

"It's really lovely to watch and honour to be a part of that."

Chapman says he wasn't surprised to see the video showing Qumaq helping out.

"Unfortunately, if you are living on the street, you can end up in prison from time to time and [Qumaq] has been at times," he said.

"But he's also someone who is quite sensitive and emotional and he's quite aware of the other homeless people around him." 

Surviving on the streets

Open Door

The Open Door homeless centre operates out of St. Stephen's Anglican Church for eight hours a day, Monday to Friday. (CBC)

Qumaq says he spends most of his days inside the church at Open Door but the nights, particularly during the winter, can be hard.

"Atwater, downtown, that's my area," Qumaq said.

"I take care of myself. Go to warm places, stay on safe streets."

Qumaq's mother and brother are also on and off the street and he spends the majority of his time with them. He also has made good friends who have always been willing to help him out.

"I'm not alone during the night. We gather together and collect hot meals, warm clothes. That's how we survive," he said.

Qumaq says that time together has made them all willing to help each and that's why he didn't think twice about helping the apparently homeless teenager by giving away his coat.