GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — If you want to offer help amid West Michigan’s opioid crisis, a Grand Rapids family hopes you’ll consider honoring their son.
“We had been looking for something that would really be as profound and meaningful for his one-year death anniversary as Jordan’s life was,” said Wendy Botts, Jordan Blaauw’s mom. “It just clicked because he was so passionate about the homeless.”
The Botts are launching the Tents in Memory of Jordan campaign to gather tents to donate to Unlimited Alternatives, a Grand Rapids drop-in center that serves people with mental health issues, many of whom are homeless and in need of shelter.
“They said tents are just a huge need,” Wendy Botts said.
You can order a $20 tent directly from the Botts’ Amazon wishlist. The tents will ship to the Botts' home in Southeast Grand Rapids, and they’ll deliver them to Unlimited Alternatives.
The Botts set a goal of 21 tents because their son was 21 years old when he died. But people have already donated 90 tents, 100 Mylar blankets and 20 sleeping bags, among other items.
It’s a testament to the many lives Blaauw touched through his kindness and generosity. While he was never homeless himself, it seemed like Blaauw could relate to the struggles of those who were. The musician and chef was diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder as a teenager.
“Once you’ve lived through what we have, and understand how someone can become homeless, you realize that that person is not just a homeless person,” said John Botts, Blaauw’s dad. “They’re someone’s child, and there’s more to them than a bottle and a brown bag.”
Blaauw struggled to stay on his psychiatric prescription, and he self-medicated periodically from 15 years old to 21. On April 17, 2017, he overdosed on the narcotic painkiller fentanyl in his southeast Grand Rapids home.
"He was a pretty incredible, wonderful human being," his mother said. "We don't want people to forget him."
The decision to collect tents was also inspired, in part, by Tyler Trowbridge, a homeless heroin user who was profiled by Target 8 in February. After that report aired, Stacy Peck, one of Trowbridge's former classmates, reached out to help him and got him off the street, back onto medication-assisted treatment and into a job.
>>Online: Peck's blog on helping Trowbridge
"I'd do anything to not go back to this," Trowbridge said as he showed Wendy Botts a cabinet where he used to sleep behind a vacant restaurant near one of GR's busiest streets.
"I'd just put the sheet up to block the wind," he said. "That's kind of that was my home for a minute."
Standing in front of the cabinet, Botts couldn't help but hug Trowbridge.
Peck knows the Bottses and introduced them to Trowbridge. Since then, they've forged a friendship. They even gave him some of their son's clothes and shoes.
"I hope that maybe some of Jordan's spirit lives on through Tyler," Wendy Botts said.
To honor Blaauw’s life, you can also donate to the family’s GoFundMe account. All monies will go toward the purchase of tents.
You can also send a check, cash or a money order (made out to John or Wendy Botts) to:
1329 Thomas St. SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49506
All monies will be used to purchase tents from Amazon.