Maui News

Program to Distribute 750 Backpacks to Maui Homeless

December 20, 2013, 11:48 AM HST
* Updated December 20, 2:34 PM
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Image courtesy Citypak.

Image courtesy Citypak.

By Wendy Osher

A philanthropic organization based in Chicago, Ill., will visit Maui to distribute some 750 backpacks to hundreds of homeless individuals on the island.

The CITYPAK Project provides backpacks that are “custom-designed to provide a safe, secure, and convenient way for homeless people to transport belongings.”

Today, the project encourages local distribution partners “to create programs that use the donated CITYPAKs as incentives for their homeless clients.”

The first distribution of 200 backpacks will take place on Christmas Day through the Hale Kau Kau food ministry program at St. Theresa’s Church in Kīhei, during a special holiday event scheduled for 1 p.m.

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“We don’t pretend that it’s any kind of solution to the complex issue of homelessness,” project founder and businessman Ron Kaplan said in a press release announcing the Maui visit.

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“But it’s something we can do to make a small difference for individuals who are in this difficult situation. In addition, it provides an opportunity to continue the important dialogue about how our communities can best help our homeless neighbors,” Kaplan said.

An additional 120 backpacks will be distributed during an event at noon on New Years Eve at the Family Life Center, and the remaining 430 CITYPAKS will be distributed throughout the island by the Salvation Army in Lahaina and Kahului during the early part of 2014.

The non-for-profit CITYPAK Project works together with manufacturing partner High Sierra to provide the custom designed backpacks to homeless persons in need.

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According to organization representatives, the design features room for a large quantity of items, a hide-away poncho designed to keep both the bag and its wearer dry, a cinch-top closure for extra waterproofing, a ballistic nylon outer shell to combat the elements and anti-theft webbing loops.

To date, the program has distributed 5,000 PAKS in Chicago and Boulder, Colo. Plans call for additional distribution efforts in Austin, Texas, and Boston, Mass. in 2014.

Kaplan explained that he started CITYPAK because of a simple desire to help homeless in need.

“It really was a simple thought,” he said. “Wouldn’t a good, sturdy backpack help make life on the streets a little bit easier?”

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