They say that if you give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day, but if you teach a man to fish, he’ll eat for a lifetime – and social entrepreneur Veronika Scott is proving that the old adage rings just as true for women and coats. As a long-time Detroit resident, Scott was compelled to do something about the unemployment and homelessness she saw plaguing her city. In 2011, she started the Empowerment Plan, a non-profit that not only gives coats to Detroit’s homeless, but also employs homeless women to make them. The weather-resistant outerwear was specially designed to do double duty as a sleeping bag, as well as doing triple duty to help unemployed women get back on their feet.
American Express is sharing Veronika and the Empowerment Plan‘s story through its PassionProject. Check out the powerful video below to see the impact the Empowerment Plan is having on Detroit, and see more inspiring PassionProject videos here.
About 1 in every 42 people in Detroit are homeless. With those kinds of numbers, they city’s shelters are unable to keep up with demand, turning famously bitter Michigan winters into a deadly situation for those who need to live on the streets. The Empowerment Plan‘s cleverly-designed coats function as warm parkas during the day, and then fold out easily to become sleeping bags at night. The jackets are then distributed to those that need them most.
“I’ve been here now for 10 months, almost a year,” says Empowerment Plan seamstress Arnetta Smith. “We went to [a shelter] and there was a pregnant girl – she was like 9 months pregnant – just to give her a coat because she didn’t have one. That was the most heart-breaking thing I’ve ever seen or did. But that was it for me. Just the best feeling in the world. Having this job has helped me a lot. I have a lot to look forward to.”
Founder Veronika Scott wearing one of the Empowerment Plan’s original coats.
The Empowerment Plan currently employs 13 formerly homeless women who will soon be able to produce at least 600 coats a month. Next year, Scott plans to hire more workers to distribute as many as 8,500 coats. In addition to their current jobs, Scott’s seamstresses now have specialized sewing skills that will enable them to secure employment in the future.
Click here to support the Empowerment Plan, and if you know someone who is in need of a coat, please fill out a request form here. While a donation of any size helps, the Empowerment Plan asks for $100 to sponsor one full coat for a homeless person.