‘Street proof’ bags handed out to Metro Vancouver homeless

Click to play video: 'Custom-made backpacks for the homeless' Custom-made backpacks for the homeless
WATCH: The Union Gospel Mission is partnering with Citypak to provide special backpacks to Vancouver's homeless population. Grace Ke has the details. – Nov 21, 2016

Some of the homeless people sleeping on the streets and in shelters across Metro Vancouver are about to get a bit of an early Christmas present as temperatures across the province are continuing to drop.

The Union Gospel Mission is partnering with Citypak Project and Wolfe Auto Group to distribute some very special bags.

“Over the next several days, we will be handing out 750 backpacks and these are custom built specifically for life on the streets,” said Jeremy Hunka with Union Gospel Mission.

Some of the street-specific features of these bags include reflective gear, so that people using them are more visible at night. They also have built in rain ponchos that cover the person and the bag to help keep them dry. The bags come with anti-theft measures, such as loops that they can wrap around their arms or legs, so if they are in a situation where they are sleeping on the street or under a bridge, no one can just come up and grab their gear.

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Homeless man talks to a UGM employee after receiving a bag provided by Citypak (Courtesy: UGM).

“This is a big deal because people who are on the streets, their whole world is in their backpack,” Hunka said. “They have their very few precious possessions, and then they have their documents and they might have pictures of their family, their kids, things that just are not replaceable.”

Hunka also points out the people on the streets often don’t have good shoes or gear; and those wandering around with plastic garbage bags often get rained on.

Citypak Project is a Chicago-based organization. Citypak has been handing out tens of thousands of these bags across North America. This is their first time in Vancouver and only second time in Canada, according to Hunka.

The organization reached out to Union Gospel Mission initially through Instagram, wanting to deliver their bags to Metro Vancouver. As a joint effort, Citypak delivered the bags at no cost to the Mission and UGM took on the task of distributing the bags to the homeless using their own trucks and the assistance of Wolfe Auto Group.

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Bags are being loaded onto UGM trucks and are being delivered throughout Metro Vancouver in the next few days.

UGM employees and volunteers packing their trucks to deliver them to the Shelters. (Courtesy UGM).

The bags will be handed out in New Westminster, Mission, Surrey and the Downtown Eastside to different shelters and organizations in an effort by UGM to get it to the people who need it most. People who are on the streets and living in shelters are UGM’s target recipients. This is not an exact science, according to Hunka.

Rather than just doing a huge giveaway in the Downtown Eastside, where people might want a bag, but they are not actually homeless, UGM is taking the bags primarily to homeless shelters.

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