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‘You’re living in that backpack’: Mel Trotter brings awareness to youth homelessness

'Minimal Living Challenge' begins Nov. 15.
Posted at 6:58 PM, Nov 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-09 20:27:57-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Regina Dix works with a number of youth at Mel Trotter Ministries in the downtown area, many who are experiencing homelessness. Considering November is Youth Homeless Awareness Month, she created a way for people to walk a mile in their shoes and connect with their circumstances.

“I’m challenging people to live out of their backpack for one week, put everything, including a week’s worth of clothes, including hygiene items and shoes, in that backpack,” Dix said during an interview with FOX 17 on Tuesday afternoon. “What we know is that storage is hard to come by. So, when you see someone with a bag on their back, a lot of times they can't just set that down or put it in storage.”

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Dix said they carry their belongings with them everywhere they go. And that's exactly what she’s asking participants to do: fill their backpacks and carry them around, to school, work and to run errands.

The project is called the Minimal Living Challenge and it’ll begin Monday, Nov. 15.

“Each year in the United States there’s 4.2 million youth who experience homelessness. That number wrecks me,” Dix said. “Then when you drill that down a bit, there’s 700,000 youth who are 'unaccompanied,' meaning that they don’t have a parent or guardian with them."

Mel Trotter works with 400 youths a year, she said. 

On the sixth day of the Challenge week next week, she's asking participants to donate items from their bags — especially any new hygiene products — and drop it off to Mel Trotter Ministries.

Dix ordered 60 green bags, which is the color of Youth Homeless Awareness Month. Forty people have signed up so far, she said. Should they fill up, she encourages people to use their own backpacks and participate anyway.

Dix said the goal is to build empathy.

“When you’re in proximity with a cause, your passion level skyrockets,” she said. “Then that brings more awareness, and that’s the hope behind this whole project. Everything you can fit in the backpack, you’re living in that backpack.”

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