Purple Backpack Project

Dirt City Sanctuary is proud to announce the launch of our Purple Backpack Project. In honor of the late Jordan Blaauw and inspired by our very own Tyler Trowbridge, this project will focus on collecting life saving items to help the homeless population in Kent County, MI brave the upcoming winter months.

During his brief 21 years on this earth, Jordan Blaauw was a fierce advocate for our homeless population. He could understand the pain related to mental illness and self medication. He did what so few of us would have the courage and heart to do. He made himself invaluable by spending time with our homeless population. On any given day you could find Jordan donating his time at Degage, purchasing meals, providing clothing and blankets, and sharing his gift of music. When he wasn’t spending time with the people he so cared for, he often spent time educating those around him on their innate worth.

Jordan Blaauw 8/21/95-4/17/17

Severe Mental Illness, Chronic Substance Use Disorder, and Veterans

Many things can lead to homelessness; but did you know that at least 1 in 5 of those that are homeless have a severe mental illness and similarly, 1 in 5 also suffer from chronic substance use disorder? Our veterans are much more likely than civilians to face homelessness and of our homeless veterans, over half suffer from a mental or physical disability.

According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness: “Veterans are more likely than civilians to experience homelessness. Like the general homeless population, veterans are at a significantly increased risk of homelessness if they have low socioeconomic status, a mental health disorder, and/or a history of substance use disorder. Yet, because of veterans’ military service, this population is at higher risk of experiencing traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), both of which have been found to be among the most substantial risk factors for homelessness. A 2015 study of veterans initiating medication-administered treatment screened each of these patients for risk of homelessness and found that the prevalence of homelessness in veterans with opioid use disorder is 10 times more than the general veteran population.”

You can learn more about the homeless population in Michigan here:

No one wants or deserves to suffer the brutal Michigan winter outside and without necessary and life saving provisions. Jordan saw the value in all human beings and his loss is being felt deeply; please help us carry on his legacy by contributing to our efforts in his honor.

After meeting and getting to know Tyler and learning about his experiences being homeless and battling substance use disorder, Wendy was inspired  to launch a similar campaign at the 1 year anniversary of losing Jordan to an accidental fentanyl overdose. The campaign resonated with so many and was hugely successful, raising over $10,000 in supplies. You can watch that story here:

The First Purple Backpack Project 


Churches and Area Businesses Needed!

We are looking for local businesses and churches who are interested in partnering with DCS for our Purple Backpack Project. We are asking local businesses and churches to consider collecting supplies for DCS and/or holding a employee collection or special offering for our Purple Backpack Project. We would love to speak to your business or congregation about the needs of the homeless in Kent County. If your business church is interested in partnering with DCS for our Purple Backpack Project please click here more information.

DCS is proudly coordinating with Degage Ministries for our fall Purple Backpack Campaign!

Dégagé Ministries offers help and hope to homeless and disadvantaged individuals in our community. Degage Ministries responsive programming is designed to address immediate and long-term needs such as overnight respite for women in crisis, food, referral services and hygiene facilities. Dégagé’s goal is to assure that every man and woman who they serve knows that he/she is not alone. Many hardships exist in life and none of us are exempt from them. For those 400-500 individuals they serve daily at Dégagé, many of whom are homeless and low-income, the hardships can be overwhelming—loss of shelter, loss of employment, loss of a loved one, loss of control and loss of opportunity. And with these hardships, they lose much more. Many feel unworthy and hopeless, especially after society has looked down upon them or they have been rejected after repeatedly trying to move forward on their own.

Degage Ministries is OPEN SEVEN DAYS A WEEK. Sunday – Saturday 7:00am – 11:30am & 5:00pm – 7:30pm. Degage offers a multitude of services. You can find a full list of their services here.

DCS will collect donations to create Purple Backpacks, in honor of Jordan’s favorite color, filled with essential supplies for the Kent County homeless population vital for survive during Michigan’s brutal winters.

Our Purple Backpack Project will include:

  • Water resistant purple hiking backpack
  • Mummy Sleeping Bag
  • Self Inflating Sleeping Pad
  • Thermal Blanket
  • Base Layers (generously provided by Corbeaux Clothing)
  • Rain Poncho
  • Wool socks
  • Hat and Gloves
  • Winter Jacket
  • Personal Hygiene Items
  • Thermos and Instant Coffee
  • First Aid Kit

Distribution will be a Heartside Park, 301 Ionia Ave SW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503, in conjunction with Degage Ministries 1pm-4pm. A hot meal courtesy of Amore Trattoria Italiana will be provided at distribution, as well as, haircuts and hot shaves provided by Salon Re for our November 17th distribution. 

Distribution date:

  • November 17, 2018
  • December 22, 2018

Volunteers Needed!

If you are interested in volunteering at our November 17th distribution date you can sign up to volunteer here or contact Wendy at 616.250.6423 or email wendy@dirtcitysanctuary.org .

Learn how you can donate to our Purple Backpack Project here:

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