‘We’ve Got Your Back!’ campaign provides daily necessities for homeless youth

Local News

SALT LAKE CITY (News4Utah) – Dozens of volunteers said, “We’ve got your back!” to homeless youth in Utah through their service project, filling backpacks with daily necessities.

This is the second year of the campaign, spearheaded through a collaboration between Volunteers of America Utah, the Danna Foundation, and the Bridge Investment Group.

“We serve youth here at Volunteers of American Youth Resource Center who are 15 to 22 years old. In a year, we see between 700 to 800 youth. They’re not all homeless. They might be at-risk for being homeless,” said Cathleen Sparrow, chief development officer for Volunteers of America Utah.

Dan Stanger, co-founder of the Danna Foundation said the idea for the We’ve Got Your Back campaign began when his wife, Anna noticed a homeless woman struggling to manage her belongings, mostly in a plastic garbage bag.

“The ultimate goal, of course, is to eliminate homelessness. While we work hard towards that goal, we try very hard to help these individuals with small, kind gestures that help their lives, said Anna Stanger, co-founder of the Danna Foundation. “You would be amazed at how much a backpack means to a homeless person.”

Wednesday afternoon, volunteers gathered at the VOA Utah’s youth resource center to assemble backpacks for the residents with toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, hairbrushes, books, and more.

“It allows people who are experiencing homelessness to feel a sense of dignity. Being able to brush your teeth, wash your hands, wash your face, having necessities like toothpaste and soap, new underwear, clean socks provides an individual with a sense of dignity,” said Sparrow.

Stanger said this opportunity allows volunteers to help the homeless population in a non-confrontational way.

“Sometimes, I think one of the biggest challenges in approaching the homeless population is we’re all very sensitive. That face-to-face, on-the-street meeting sometimes is really uncomfortable,” said Stanger.

Last year, the campaign assembled 930 backpacks. This year, they expect 1,250 backpacks for homeless youth in Utah.

“When one of our residents feel the most vulnerable in their life, abandoned, or a little bit lost, this backpack shows that the community really truly cares about them as a person,” said Sparrow.

Stanger said he hopes their campaign will prompt more conversation about homelessness.

“Hopefully the energy that we share will be get by those that receive them and expand the discussion throughout the country,” said Stanger.

Each backpack costs approximately $20. If you would like to help and sponsor a backpack, click here.

For more information about Volunteers of America Utah, click here.

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