Kaplan Helps The Homeless

Chicago city officials working to help the homeless have another tool to access thanks to an idea from Monterey International’s Ron Kaplan.

Kaplan and his family’s SBK Foundation are behind the CityPak backpack designed specifically for the homeless to have a secure, waterproof way to store and carry their possessions.

SBK, founded in 1990, has contributed to groups including MusiCares, Habitat for Humanity’s Musicians Village in New Orleans and Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, to name a few.
“After seeing a number of people walking around with backpacks that were made for grammar school kids or ripped-up plastic bags, one day I thought, ‘This would be a really great idea,’” Kaplan told Pollstar. “I started researching it and I couldn’t find anything that anyone had done other than recycling school bags. Those are inadequate for the needs.”
Discussions with High Sierra Sport Company’s Hank Bernbaum and Mike Angelini, along with input from a focus group homeless citizens and shelter and outreach personnel, led to the CityPak design and functionality.
The bag made of black ballistic nylon is large enough to accommodate bedding, clothes, toiletries, food, water and other necessities. 
Features include cinch-top closure, multiple pockets, a waterproof interior pouch to protect important documents, I.D., and photos, straps that can be attached to the owner’s wrist or ankle while sleeping to deter theft and a rain poncho attached to the backpack that folds out to cover owner and bag in bad weather.
Amid all the excitement and planning came the real moment of truth.
“One of the most shocking moments was when a truck pulled up to my house with 365 boxes. I had no idea what to do with them!” Kaplan said. “We took everything out of the garage.”
Kaplan, his wife and Monterey International staffers delivered that first run of 2,000 bags that were handed out at nine Chicago shelter and outreach locations Oct. 10-11.
Also in development is a similar backpack called Public Bag for the general population. Kaplan said this project would be patterned after TOMS’ shoes one-for-one system, where for every Public Bag sold, a free CityPak would be given to a homeless person.
“Great ideas only work from great partnerships,” Kaplan said. “It felt so good to see something that took about a year to develop … finally being given out.
“I don’t have the ability to stop or end homelessness. The only thing I can do is try to help make life on the streets a little easier.”
For more information about the CityPak project, Kaplan can be reached at [email protected].