CITYPAK & High Sierra Provide Backpacks to the Homeless


More than 116,000 homeless people live in Chicago, according to the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. While working in the city as an agent for Monterey International, a music booking agency, Ron Kaplan noticed that many of the homeless carried their belongings in torn plastic bags, or had no type of bag at all.

“Being around Chicago, I just saw the amount of people with inadequate means to carry their things,” Kaplan told us during the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market trade show held in July in Salt Lake City.

This sparked Kaplan to launch the CITYPAK Project, which provides durable backpacks to homeless people. In 2012, he partnered with backpack and travel bag manufacturer High Sierra to produce more than 2,000 durable backpacks for people in Chicago.citypak1

Kaplan and High Sierra worked with Chicago non-profits to get input on the design of the bags, learning that the homeless are constantly in a state of transition, and need large, durable bags to transport their belonging as circumstances change. They also realized that the homeless needed low-key bags that wouldn’t attract a lot of attention, and included features to prevent theft.

CITYPAK bags are made of ballistic nylon, and there are webbing loops that a person can slip their arms through to prevent the bag from being stolen. To open the bag, you must undo large and noisy strips of Velcro-like material, so it’s difficult for a potential thief to get into the bag without being noticed. Because the homeless are often exposed to the elements, the bag also has an integrated poncho that goes over the wear and the bag.

While the program was launched in Chicago, Kaplan says he’s launching it in additional cities including Boulder, Colo., Honolulu and Austin, Texas.

If you’d like to support CITYPAK, click to make a donation.


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