We are currently in the capital campaign and planning phase of our first Kent County Campus.
Our community housing project will be focused on loving, honest and individualized care and support for those facing substance use disorder and homelessness. Our first campus will be located in Kent County, MI, with a second campus to follow in Newaygo County, MI. Each campus will house 20-25 individuals.
Dirt City Sanctuary will provide:
- A home. Each tenant has a private studio apartment within the community.
- Community. Made up of tenants and staff as well as volunteers brought in to give tenants normal life experiences, skills, and bonds.
- A job. Essential to sustained sobriety is the ability to provide for oneself while cultivating a sense of purpose.
- Healing. We will address not only the individual’s substance use disorder but any underlying trauma and or mental health issues.
- A purpose. We believe that to help another is to help yourself.
Purple Backpack Project
Dirt City Sanctuary launched of our Purple Backpack Project in October 2018. The PBP is in honor of the late Jordan Blaauw and inspired by our very own Tyler Trowbridge, this project focuses on collecting life saving items to help the homeless population in Kent County, MI brave the winter months.
Through our first Purple Backpack campaign we were able to raise over $45,000 in essential winter supplies for hundreds of people facing homelessness in Grand Rapids. With the help of our community, we were able to distribute the following items during our two distributions and multiple smaller scale distributions.
- 250+ pairs of new winter boots
- 300+ thermoses
- 1000+ pairs of socks, underwear, and bras
- 200 pairs of thermal underwear sets
- 75 sleeping bags
- Hundreds of coats
- 500+ winter hats and gloves
- 2000+ hand and feet warmers
- 1000+ feminine hygiene products
At both of our PBP distributions, community members facing homelessness and those there to lend a hand, were able to share a hot meal and genuine interactions with hundreds of others. Those receiving winter goods were often the first to show up and lend a hand in setting up, and among the last to leave after clean up. It was heartwarming to see community members that had volunteered at the first event in November return to the December event, excited to see those individuals they had most connected with in November. A sense of community and trust was cultivated that went beyond our hopes and expectations. Many volunteers stated that their lives were profoundly changed because of the interaction they had with those facing homelessness in Grand Rapids.
Through the PBP hundreds facing homelessness in Kent County now have life saving winter essentials to survive a Michigan winter. We hope to serve hundreds more in 2019.
The Purple Backpack Project runs from October to December. If you would like more information about our PBP please email info@dirtcitysanctuary.
Warming Hearts & Toes
Michigan Winters can be brutal with temps and wind chills often dipping below zero. Frostbite can set in within minutes when frigid temperatures hit. After serving several individuals, particularly the senior population, in just socks or worn shoes with holes at our Purple Backpack Project in November 2018, Dirt City Sanctuary launched the Warming Hearts & Toes Campaign.
DCS made it our mission to get as many new pairs of winter boots into the hands of those who need them. DCS partnered with Senior Neighbor of Grand Rapids to ensure senior citizens in particular, were prepared for the winter with appropriate footwear.
Initially dipping into our own financial reserves, DCS was fortunate enough to partner with Wolverine Worldwide to distribute 250+ pairs of boots to homeless senior citizens, senior citizens on fixed incomes and men, women and children facing homelessness in Kent County.
Our Warming Hearts & Toes Campaign will continue to provide new boots to those in need.
Spring Block Party
Dirt City Sanctuary launched of our Spring Block Party in April 2019. The Spring Block Party is a spin off of our Purple Backpack Project. This project focuses on providing storage, allowing those without access to storage, to come to our block party, pack up a labeled box with any winter gear they’d like and we store those boxes until early fall! Spring essentials are also collected and given out.
In December 2018, DCS partnered with the Kent County Health Department and Red Project to launch a monthly testing outreach program to those facing homelessness in Kent County. DCS along with nurses from the Kent County Health Department and Red Project visit parks, encampments and drop in centers to provide:
- Naloxone and Naloxone Training
- STD Testing
- Free Condoms
- TB Testing
- Hepatitis A Vaccinations
- City Bus Passes
Among the services provided, the Hepatitis A vaccine is made available at the monthly testing outreach. Due to Hepatitis A outbreaks across the country, the CDCs Division of Viral Hepatitis (DVH) has been assisting several state and local health departments with Hepatitis A outbreaks, spread through person to person contact, that have occurred primarily among persons who use injection and non-injection drugs, and/or persons experiencing homelessness, and their close direct contacts.
In May 2019, DCS joined forces with Be A Rose, a 501(c)(3), tax exempt, nonprofit, organization founded by Christine Mwangi in 2014 with the singular purpose of empowering women. Our mission is to provide health and wellness education to underserved women and school-age girls and to distribute hygiene products to these populations at zero cost, to provide feminine hygiene products at our monthly testings.
DCS collaborates with local coffee shops and bakeries to provide free coffee, donuts and more to those individuals participating in the monthly testing/vaccination outreaches. These monthly outreaches help cultivate trust and provides DCS a platform to lend a hand up to those facing homelessness in Kent County.
Community Education Outreach Speaking Events
DCS is working to raise awareness about the opioid epidemic. DCS is committed to changing the conversation about substance use disorder and the many misconceptions about substance use disorder and recovery. DCS meets with Federal, State and local agencies, as well as the public in efforts to prevent and reduce opioid misuse, as well as cultivate compassion and understanding for those facing substance use disorder.
We are also working to change the conversation about homelessness. One of our core beliefs at DCS is housing must be a part of the solution when addressing substance use disorder. Homelessness makes entering treatment more difficult and presents nearly impossible odds of staying in recovery. High rates of relapse are understandable when one is living on the street or in emergency shelters.
By educating our community about the opioid epidemic, homelessness and the critical need for housing and community we hope to facilitate change to current approach to homelessness and substance use disorder.
Some of our 2018 Educational Outreach included;
- Washington DC 2018: Addressing the opioid epidemic and alternatives to opioids for pain management with our nation’s lawmakers is imperative in the opioid crisis. Tyler Trowbridge and Stacy Peck, along with Dr. Mark Jesin, met with and spoke in front of federal lawmakers at our nation’s capital in July 2018.
- Recovery Palooza: Recovery Palooza is a fun, free community event hosted in Kent County to celebrate recovery, support our community, and learn about substance use and recovery resources. DCS had the privilege of being a featured booth at Recovery Palooza 2018.
- TAM Lights of Hope Event: The Addict’s Mom (TAM) started thier nationwide campaign, “Lights of Hope.” TAM, in conjunction with local community members to honor, support and instill hope in those whose lives have been shattered by addiction. The event also honors those who have been tragically lost to addiction. “Lights of Hope” is a candle lighting vigil; candles illuminate homes, work places, community centers, and churches. TAM members sponsor a “Lights Of Hope” event in every State. In 2018, Tyler Trowbridge and Wendy Botts had the privilege of being guest speakers at Kent County’s 1st TAM Lights of Hope Event.
- Dental Educational Events: Reducing the number of opioid prescriptions by medical professionals is key in combating the opioid epidemic. Tyler has been a featured guest speaker at several educational events in Kent County to speak to his experience with substance use disorder.
- FAN Meeting Speakers: Families Against Narcotics (FAN) is a community based program for those seeking recovery, those in recovery, family members affected by addiction and community supporters. FAN seeks to change the face of addiction, dispel the stigma of addiction, and educate the community as well as those affected by addiction. Being featured speakers at FAN meetings, Tyler Trowbridge is able to share is experiences and advice with families who have loved ones struggling with substance use disorder.
DCS looks forward to continuing our Educational Outreach. If you are interested in a DCS speaker at your event please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Stacy Peck spearheaded and sparked the current Kent County Jail’s inclusion of Network 180 services to inmates with substance use disorder. Stacy saw that inmates in the throes of withdrawal while incarcerated where not receiving substance use disorder recovery services. Inmates are now able to receive addiction services through Network 180 while being detained at the Kent County Jail.