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BNP 2012
November 29, 2012 12:35 AM   Subscribe

Arc’teryx, a high-end Vancouver outdoor clothing manufacturer, is working with the VPD's Homeless Outreach Program on the Birds Nest Project in an attempt to provide the city's homeless population with stylish waterproof capes.
posted by mannequito (29 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Keep it classy, National Post commenters!
posted by abbazabba at 1:09 AM on November 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


I love Arc’teryx clothes. Mrs W0mbat likes me to wear them because they're outdoorsy, but I like them because that's what they wore on Stargate Atlantis.
posted by w0mbat at 1:21 AM on November 29, 2012


Oh lord, those comments.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:39 AM on November 29, 2012


This is an excellent idea and Arcteryx are to be applauded for doing it. Mind you lord knows they can afford to given their prices.

It's interesting to contrast the tone of the Arteryx statement (third link):

"Anything that makes use of raw materials we can no longer use for commercial production is a valid and worthy project"

... with the tone of that article (final link):

"Vancouver’s homeless will soon look a bit more stylish"

For fuck's sake journalists, give these poor people a bit more dignity. Labelling something given to homeless people as stylish, unique and exclusive? Don't treat homeless people like mannequins and don't create labels like this for something that's simply vital to help keep someone alive over winter, especially if it goads even one suitably stupid person to steal one of these simply to get their hands on one of "Arc’teryx’s more exclusive products, as they are not listed in the company’s standard catalogue."

I'd be curious to see what Arcteryx folk make of that article. I'd hope they would prefer the Vancouver Police statement in the article as a better reflection of why they're doing this.
posted by dowcrag at 2:36 AM on November 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


I think it's awesome that they have a position entitled "Manager of Corporate Social Responsibility".
posted by Capybara at 5:30 AM on November 29, 2012


"Let them wear capes..."
posted by ennui.bz at 6:09 AM on November 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


This feels to me like a somewhat well-intentioned but ultimately self-serving gesture by someone that really doesn't understand the needs of people who are chronically homeless.

These folks don't need better winter clothes. They need proper medical services and clean, dry, safe places to live. Arc’teryx would do better donating funds. If they want to connect it to their product line, they could just explain that even with the best outdoor gear, no one should be living outside in Vancouver in winter.

Chronically homeless people shouldn't be used as product models, just like they shouldn't be used as mobile hotspots.
posted by alms at 6:11 AM on November 29, 2012 [13 favorites]


Thank you alms, you've said what I came here to say, but much more eloquently than I would have done.
posted by Scientist at 6:20 AM on November 29, 2012


This feels to me like a somewhat well-intentioned but ultimately self-serving gesture by someone that really doesn't understand the needs of people who are chronically homeless.

It's just generally "post-ironic." manufacturer of extremely expensive status-clothing designed for rugged outdoor use but mainly sold to people who maybe spend a week or two outside each year donates clothing to people who nominally spend all year outside.

They see themselves as doing a good deed, and I don't think this is a marketing ploy but it feels like Marie Antoinette in double-stitched and sealed nylon.
posted by ennui.bz at 6:21 AM on November 29, 2012 [2 favorites]



These folks don't need better winter clothes. They need proper medical services and clean, dry, safe places to live.


Well, they need better services and warm indoor places -- but they also need better winter clothes in the meantime. A couple of days ago I drove past a (presumably) homeless guy, walking in the rain and dressed in trashbags from head to foot. Sure, that's creative, but he'd be warmer and more comfortable in one of these high tech ponchos. Giving out ponchos fixes nothing, but might make a few people temporarily more comfortable.

Arc’teryx would do better donating funds.

Mostly I agree, with the caveat that donating unsold jackets and sleeping bags is use also.
posted by Forktine at 6:21 AM on November 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


These folks don't need better winter clothes. They need proper medical services and clean, dry, safe places to live.

Yes, they need proper medical services and homes, but who are you to say they don't need better winter clothes? These capes will be far better than what they have today. This effort won't help address underlying issues, which are systemic and intractable, but will help make a homeless person's life more comfortable. I think they should be commended for turning their waste product into something useful and socially-conscious, don't you? As for it being a PR stunt, do you propose that they do this and then keep it quiet? How would keeping it quiet help the homeless more? Why are we bashing this company for trying to do something good? Because it's better to do nothing at all than creating a solution that will 100% fix homelessness?
posted by sid at 6:39 AM on November 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


I even used the edit button, and it's still ungrammatical. How about: "...with the caveat that donating unsold jackets and sleeping bags is of use also."

Every year there are articles about the latest architecture student designs for fancy mobile shelters for homeless people, and they are uniformly awful and almost insulting given the disparity between what homeless people need (safe shelter options) and what they are being offered (photos of prototypes of student architecture projects). This doesn't rub me the wrong way like that; it's just a small luxury for someone who is outside in bad weather and isn't promising to fix any of the real issues at hand.
posted by Forktine at 6:41 AM on November 29, 2012


Can I buy one of these?
posted by rossmeissl at 6:43 AM on November 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


No doubt we will soon see the 'ironic' wearing of one of these capes -- they've got all the hallmarks of a desirable hipster item of clothing: association with poverty, highly quality, limited supply (only 1000 in existence!!).
posted by modernnomad at 6:48 AM on November 29, 2012


These folks don't need better winter clothes. They need proper medical services and clean, dry, safe places to live. Arc’teryx would do better donating funds.

I certainly see homeless people who are equipped for winter conditions. I also see homeless people who are wearing multiple layers of damp cotton. This company's in a position to offer a high-quality, useful piece of equipment to people who may need it, and presumably more economically because they manufacture it.

Is it better for them to donate several thousand dollars and house a couple of people for a year, or make the conditions for many people more bearable for a long time? I don't know for sure; it's hard to make a hard accounting of collective suffering. But I don't think this is totally without merit.

Of course, for them, this results in publicity and product awareness that a monetary donation can't match. So there's something in it for the company going this route. I'm of the school who thinks charity that results in personal gain is necessarily a bit tainted, but if every for-profit company was this socially active, we'd be a lot better off. I think it's hard to write this off.
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:50 AM on November 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


This seems great to me. It's not like they are preventing other forms of aid from being given. Being warm and dry when outdoors is a basic creature comfort that not only may prevent or mitigate health issues, but improves your outlook. These guys are a clothing company, so it seems like a natural fit.

Everything's relative. Why am I donating to NPR instead of giving an extra $20 to a food bank? Why do some people help pet shelters instead of people shelters? Unless something is actively unhelpful, we should encourage an environment where people can feel good about whatever they choose to do.

Funnily enough, a couple of weeks ago I just bought my first warm winter coat that I've had in years, and my first thought when walking around was "man, if I was homeless, I'd want one of these!"
posted by freecellwizard at 7:16 AM on November 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


This article made me wonder to what extent Vancouver's homeless population had been consulted about the type of outerwear they need/want. I mean, a poncho is an odd garment - I see plenty of homeless people in rain ponchos, but presumably just because they are orders of magnitude cheaper than raincoats. Maybe they're flexible and good for several purposes (dropcloth, blanket), or maybe they're too over-engineered to be useful. Capes have the big advantage of one-size-fits-most, and I was heartened at the mention of the capes being convenient to tie up and carry around, which is a big need for a homeless person that might not immediately spring to mind. This seems like a cool project (running on the assumption that corporations will strive to make their donations as publicity-friendly as possible anyway) -I'd be curious to know how practical these capes wind up being once they're out in the world.
posted by heyforfour at 7:18 AM on November 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


These folks don't need better winter clothes. They need proper medical services and clean, dry, safe places to live.

Yes, they do. But connecting homeless people with the resources they desperately need, and keeping them connected with them, is a lot more complex and nuanced than providing cash so those resources are available, because many people are homeless, and stay homeless, due to multiple and varied needs that can keep them on the street despite resources being available and great efforts to bring them in.

We need both: funding for resources and services, and funding to help people make the best of a bad situation while they're out there on the street.

Any corporate activity in the charity 'space' will be tainted but the taint of any marketing gain doesn't negate the benefit of what's being provided to people who need it.

High-end waterproof and insulating materials are governed by all sorts of licensing agreements that limit what can be done with excess material. This seems like a thoughtful way to use material that could not otherwise have been re-sold in any way, with potentially life-saving results for the people who will get the ponchos.
posted by dowcrag at 7:46 AM on November 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


This is ridiculous. What sick world do we live in where only homeless get free capes?! If elected president of the internet I promise free capes for all!
posted by Somnolent Jack at 8:26 AM on November 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why are we bashing this company for trying to do something good?

Because this is Metafilter?
posted by howfar at 8:40 AM on November 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


Around here (Lakeview East in Chicago) I have noticed that the homeless have shifted to using rolling luggage and bicycles from what I used to see in Toronto about 10 years ago which was shopping carts.

I think it is an interesting shift because it camouflages them a bit and gives them greater mobility. You can't really tell they're homeless right away like you could with a loaded down shopping cart. I'm not sure if this is a selection pressure of the area, where homeless people are likely to moved along, or if it is a choice made for other reasons but I still thought it was interesting.
posted by srboisvert at 8:54 AM on November 29, 2012


provide the city's homeless population with stylish waterproof capes homes.

That'd be something.
posted by klanawa at 9:44 AM on November 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm calling bs on this simply for the claim that these are repurposed scrapes. If the model shown is representative of the capes, I'm finding it extremely hard to believe a clothing company has "scrapes" that are that big. I could imagine a patchwork of pieces, but not big solid swaths.

PR move.

And I'm jealous because I can't usually justify paying for Arcteryx gear.
posted by Big_B at 9:45 AM on November 29, 2012


They're PONCHOS, not capes, ffs.

I have noticed that the homeless have shifted to using rolling luggage and bicycles from what I used to see in Toronto about 10 years ago which was shopping carts. [...] I'm not sure if this is a selection pressure of the area, where homeless people are likely to moved along, or if it is a choice made for other reasons but I still thought it was interesting.

In the last 10 years or so, a lot of places have introduced shopping carts with locking wheels: Try to take the shopping cart beyond the parking lot, and the wheels lock up automatically.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:07 AM on November 29, 2012


Oh, I like this. See, it looks so paltry, like SUCH a big nothing. A cop out. Except the thing is, oh, dear god, they do need warmer/dryer clothes. The companies motivation matters not one little bit in this case, simply because the gift is of such a truly monumental nature.

This is really the kind of thing that aids in making anything else closer to possible. You can't function if you're too cold. It's worse if you're also wet. It compounds when everything is absolutely miserable. Good protection like that gives a body room for a positive thought.

Rather than questioning the motive of the donor, which matters not at all, question the nature of people who find it reasonable to complain about a handout to those who have nothing, except an over abundance of despair.
posted by Goofyy at 10:18 AM on November 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


So, I buy one of these pretty functional parkas and then they do a 1:1 and do one for a homeless person? ... 'cuz these seem to be what would otherwise be a $200-300 range outdoor item. - Can I have a button in liner so it becomes more of a three season parka? pls pls pls...
posted by buzzman at 11:59 AM on November 29, 2012


Juneau has a large homeless population. Surprising when you think of how wet and cold it is here. There are those who are on the streets because they were unable to keep it together on their own due to addiction, mental illness, etc. There are also those who choose to live rough for various reasons. There is a homeless campsite in the woods on the edge of town and the utility company looks the other way. There isn't supposed to be general camping in the woods but you often come across little places hidden in the forest near downtown. Even if our town were to suddenly find the cash and the land to build housing for Juneau homeless, there would still be a need for waterproof outdoor equipment. Arc’teryx is doing a good thing.
posted by Foam Pants at 12:59 PM on November 29, 2012


they also need better winter clothes in the meantime.

Yes, but the problem with gestures like these, and the discourse they generate through PR, media puff pieces and the warm, fuzzy feeling we can all now experience when buying a 95$ Arc'Teryx sling pack, is that that "meantime" becomes -- has become -- interminable.

See also Mark Brand's Save-on-Meats gimmick where patrons can buy a "token," redeemable for a breakfast sandwich, which can then be given to panhandlers in lieu of cash.
posted by Catchfire at 1:12 PM on November 29, 2012


In related news, Homeless Man Is Grateful for Officer’s Gift of Boots. But He Again Is Barefoot.

This story captures the problem of giving chronically homeless people fancy consumer items like capes, or sleeping bags, or whatever while they still lack the ongoing support or mental health services they need to stabilize their lives.
The $100 pair of boots that Officer DePrimo had bought for him at a Skechers store on Nov. 14 were nowhere to be seen.

“Those shoes are hidden. They are worth a lot of money,” Mr. Hillman said in an interview on Broadway in the 70s. “I could lose my life.”

Mr. Hillman, 54, was by turns aggrieved, grateful and taken aback by all the attention that had come his way — even as he struggled to figure out what to do about it.

“I was put on YouTube, I was put on everything without permission. What do I get?” he said. “This went around the world, and I want a piece of the pie.”
posted by alms at 10:12 AM on December 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


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