Thursday, December 1, 2016

These coats for the homeless turn into sleeping bags ... and jobs

When Veronika Scott was a student at the College for Creative Studies in her hometown of Detroit, one of her classes presented a challenge: create a product to fill a community need. Veronika decided to help Detroit's homeless population. She designed a coat which converts to a sleeping bag for nighttime warmth. She brought her early designs to homeless shelters and tweaked the details based on feedback she got from those who used it.

One day, a homeless woman confronted her. She was angry, and told Veronika that she didn't need a coat - she needed a job. Veronika decided she was right. The coat and the sleeping bag were good ideas, but they were a band-aid. Secure employment was the real solution

So Veronika founded the non-profit The Empowerment Plan. Seamstresses are hired from Detroit's homeless shelters - 39 people who were once homeless have been given jobs. Over 15,000 coats which turn into sleeping bags have been produced and distributed, not just in Detroit but in 40 states and 7 Canadian provinces. Each coat take over an hour to sew and costs $100. Donations to sponsor a coat are taken on their website. Sponsors now include American Express and Madonna. 

You know the old adage: Give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day; teach a man to fish and he'll eat for a lifetime. Veronika and her team have put their own twist on it. Give a man a coat and he'll be warm for a day. Give him a job and he'll create a new life. 

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