Backpacks for homeless hit the streets of Toronto
Published Sunday, November 8, 2015 7:27PM EST
Hundreds of custom-designed backpacks stuffed with toiletries and other essentials were handed out to Toronto's most vulnerable on Sunday, as part of a North American-wide initiative to help the homeless.
The Citypack Project was started in 2012 by Chicago-based businessman Ron Kaplan. The project has so far brought more than 22,500 high-quality backpacks to the homeless in more than 50 cities. This year marks the first time the specially designed bags hit Canadian streets.
In total, about 750 backpacks were handed out in Toronto on Sunday.
These bags, however, aren't like the ones typically found on the backs of students.
Created with the help of the design team at travel gear manufacturer High Sierra, the bags are created specifically to meet the changing needs of the homeless. They come with many pockets and compartments, all designed so that personal effects can easily be stowed away.
Denise, who has been living on the streets off and on for the past five years, said one of the challenges she faces is carrying all her personal belongings with her.
"You try walking down the street with five, six bags and carrying clothes and winter gear and food and then you get yourself a backpack and you’ll see the difference," she told CTV Toronto on Sunday.
The bags also come with a hide-away poncho and an anti-theft strap to help prevent theft, a harsh reality most homeless people encounter.
"When someone has a knapsack and puts their clothing or shoes down and fall asleep, next thing, the person will wake up and no knapsack – it's gone," said Cliff Seymour, who has been homeless for about 25 years.
Local non-profit group Homeless Connect Toronto helped dole out the bags at the Mattamy Athletic Centre on Sunday. They also offered other services, such as dental and eye care for the homeless.
"We have 75 different services offered here on site, those include foot care, eye care, haircuts, legal, employment – you name it, we have it here," said Melody Li, executive director of Homeless Connect.
"By bringing all the services to one place, we’re really hoping they can get more things done here today than they can on four different days."
With a report from CTV Toronto's Ben Mercer