Hours going by while looking for a hot meal, a place to sit without being judged and told to leave, and longing for a warm place to sleep: On a single night in January 2019, 17 out of every 10,000 people in the U.S. were experiencing some sort of this somewhat inescapable nightmare that we call "homelessness."
These 567,715 people, and perhaps many more who haven't been documented, represent an issue that the U.S. hasn't been able to solve just yet. While it could be said that the governments and societies have turned their back on these people, there are also some out there who are willing to go the mile to help those in need and get them out of the vicious cycle of poverty.
Veronika Scott is one such person whose generousness and compassionate heart radiates through. During her time as an industrial design student at Detroit's College, she came up with a genius idea that has helped thousands of homeless people.
Her project topic was to design something that was going to "fill a need" in Detroit, so she chose to help the homeless population. After working closely with people at her local homeless shelter and trying to understand their biggest needs, she came up with an innovative, weather-resistant coat that can be transformed into a sleeping bag or be worn as an over-the-shoulder bag, called the EMPWR coat.
She continued to work with the homeless community to enhance the design and quality after the school year ended. The coat, which is made of high-quality products, is produced with upcycled fabric from companies such as GM and Patagonia. When worn, they are meant to last for multiple seasons.
It didn't end with the coat though. The website states that she hadn't realized the true potential of the project until a homeless woman approached her and said that she didn't want a coat, but rather wanted a job.
Getting out of the cycle of homelessness
That was a turning point. Scott began to hire and train homeless women to manufacture the coats, and soon enough, she was running a non-profit organization called the Empowerment Plan.
Founded in 2011, the organization has created a significant economic impact by employing marginalized community members to produce the goods with a grand purpose. The Empowerment Plan organization has created 90 jobs, impacted 275 children, and distributed 50,000 coats to keep the homeless warm, serving as a stepping stone out of poverty into a state of financial stability for the homeless.
This is of utmost importance since being homeless creates a vicious cycle of poverty that one can hardly escape. Getting a job and keeping it can become a big challenge which further fuels the cycle. The organization's 2-year employment model has enabled those who work there to move out of the shelter within their first 4-6 weeks. "No one has returned to homelessness once we've hired them," the website boldly claims.
Now, 10 years after it was founded, the organization is growing. As cold waves hit the U.S., Scott is about to take on an eight-city journey to deliver 700 coats from Detroit to Boston and more, as reported by Fox 2 Detroit. Another good news is that you can actually help, too.
You can visit the Empowerment Plan's website to learn more or sponsor a coat for the homeless.