'Streetproof' backpacks help homeless fight off weather, theft

'It’s a big deal because most people living on the street don’t have something built specifically for them, in their situation… and they feel targeted. They feel vulnerable and they’re often victims.'

Union Gospel Mission is handing out 750 CityPaks at shelters across Metro Vancouver

Ron Kaplan, Chicago-based founder of CityPak, demonstrates the product at Union Gospel Mission's Downtown Eastside facility Monday. (Nicole Mucci/UGM)

The Union Gospel Mission is giving away 750 backpacks designed for the homeless at shelters across Metro Vancouver.

CityPak is a backpack designed to be 'streetproof,' resisting both the elements and theft.

It is a discrete bag made of ballistic-quality nylon with anti-theft loops a person can attach to themselves while sleeping. It's also built for comfort, with load-distributing straps and even an integrated rain poncho.

"People on the Downtown Eastside, or people who are homeless, who've lost everything, their whole world is in their bag," Jeremy Hunka with Union Gospel Mission told On The Coast's Bridgette Watson.

"It's a big deal because most people living on the street don't have something built specifically for them, in their situation… and they feel targeted. They feel vulnerable and they're often victims."

Debbie is one person who received a bag on Monday from the UGM's Downtown Eastside building Monday morning.

"I feel good," she said after receiving her bag. "I've lost some stuff through sleeping on the sidewalk, eh?"

Matt Hislop, an outreach worker with UGM, helps distribute CityPak backpacks on Monday. (Nicole Mucci/UGM)

Bruce, a man who says he's spent his whole life on the streets, was also happy to get one of the bags.

"It's my birthday coming up, so I look at it like my present, eh?" he said. "I have a sleeping bag. I put the stuff right down in the bottom of the bag by my feet … so that's how I've worked it out."

Bruce, once he got his bag immediately put his possessions in it: his clothes and his food.

"I put it all in there perfectly," he said. "I'm going to protect it with all my might.

Hunka says the bags will be distributed over the next few days to people in shelters on the Downtown Eastside, New Westminster, Mission and Surrey.

With files from Bridgette Watson and CBC Radio One's On The Coast


To hear the full story, click the audio labelled: UGM distributing 'streetproof' backpacks to homeless