Backpacks made specifically for homeless bring added joy during SXSW

AUSTIN (KXAN) — South By Southwest is a time for fun, big shows, big celebrities and big parties. But there’s also a charitable side to the festival thanks to the spotlight on Austin.

On Wednesday, the CITYPAK project was handing out about 1,000 custom backpacks, specifically designed to meet the needs of the homeless.

“It has a water resistant zippered compartment,” said Ron Kaplan, CITYPAK’s founder. “It has these anti-theft loops that we put on here which people can put around their wrists or ankles at night.”

Kaplan and a handful of volunteers came for South by Southwest and decided to do some good while in town. He started planning the giveaway months ago.

“This brings dignity to somebody,” Kaplan said. “It brings organization, and it brings safety to their personal belongings.”

It was a gift many stopping by the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless (ARCH) were very thankful for.

“It’s going to be bigger,” said Tori Williams, comparing the new backpack to his current bag. “We can put our stuff in here and get rid of our duffel bag.”

“I’ve never seen a bag like this before,” said Bridgette Williams. “This is the very first one, so I’m going to use it…I just want say thank you.”

There are 750 more CITYPAK backpacks to give away later this year. The Chicago-based project has already distributed more than 6,000 bags this year in Chicago, Honolulu, and Boulder, Colo.

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