The homeless face a slew of scary scenarios seemingly every day, from health issues that go untreated without access to medical care to starvation without easy access to food.
They have to keep one eye open when sleeping on the streets or in camps, but they also are at risk of freezing to death in the winter when the temperatures plummet.
But one woman, inspired by her own background who experienced homelessness herself, came up with an incredible idea to help others who find themselves on the streets in bad weather and also try to rebuild their lives.
The Detroit, Michigan, woman watched her parents struggle with addiction and mental illness. While attending the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, Veronika Scott was assigned to design a product that would meet a community’s needs.
She decided to focus on the city’s homeless population and brainstormed an amazing idea!
“I remember … people just looked at you as if you’re worthless by extension, as if you’re doomed to repeat the same life. You feel like you’re digging yourself out of a hole as a child … it’s so damaging.”
Veronika came up with an insulated hybrid coat that not only is durable and water-resistant, it transforms into a sleeping bag, too. When not in use, the garment rolls up neatly into an over-the-shoulder bag for easy transport.
While everyone seemed thrilled to have such a nifty product in their possession, Veronika was told by one homeless woman that “I don’t need a coat! I need a job!”
“When she said that, I was like, you’re absolutely right. The coat on its own serves an immediate need. But what would really have the impact is hiring the people who would need it in the first place. And that was kind of the first step.”
She quickly became known as the “coat lady,” the mastermind behind the EMPWR coat. But she was about to change lives yet again.
This insight from the homeless led Veronika to form Empowerment Plan, a non-profit dedicated to tackling homelessness through jobs and education. Empowerment Plan has since created and distributed 35,000 coats worldwide, all at no cost to their recipients.
In those eight years, the organization has hired and trained more than 80 homeless people to manufacture their coats.
By providing them with jobs, Veronika also helped them secure housing. Her employees are so appreciative of the opportunity she gave them.
“They were just so dedicated. I remember they were like, ‘Oh, I have kids, but that’s not going to get in the way!’”
The non-profit even offers its employees valuable classes to help them become self-sufficient, including GED test preparation and financial literacy.
It also provides support to victims of domestic violence like Pam Warren, who lived with her children in a car for months before Empowerment Plan gave her a job.
“This is so much bigger than anything I could have imagined.”
How amazing is Veronika’s creation as well as her initiative and efforts to educate others.
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