The Empowerment Plan: Detroit Nonprofit Hires Homeless To Make Combination Coat/Sleeping Bags

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Coats for the Homeless Tackles Two Problems

Detroit Nonprofit Hires Homeless to Make Coats/sleeping Bags

By MIKE HOUSEHOLDER Associated Press

Veronika Scott simply wanted to get an “A” on her product design project. And she did — with an idea that has changed her life and those of countless others. Now, the coat she created that can transform into a sleeping bag is providing warmth to homeless people and jobs for many who used to be so themselves.

Scott, 25, built a nonprofit, the Empowerment Plan, which employs and trains homeless single parents to manufacture the coats that were her project for a class at Detroit’s College for Creative Studies four years ago. She believed the coat could help the city’s sizable homeless population during the brutal winters.

“If I get stuck out in the cold, I can stay warm,” said Timothy Harrington, 34, who recently received one at a shelter in the northern suburb of Pontiac. “(Now) I’ve got something to sleep in, something comfortable.”

Scott employs 19 women as full-time seamstresses and one man, who works in shipping and inventory.

Homelessness is not a defining characteristic. It is not a permanent state of being,” said Scott, who’s looking to hire additional seamstresses to manufacture even more coats as interest in the product grows.

Arnetta Smith, one of the longest-tenured seamstresses, had been homeless for more than a year and had lost her job and car when she met Scott at a Detroit shelter.

“I’m independent now. I pay my own bills. I have a vehicle. I don’t rely on the state for help anymore,” said Smith, 38, who said she also helps support her son, a college student.

It costs $100 to sponsor one of the water-resistant and self-heating coats, which are distributed locally and also shipped across North America. The Empowerment Plan hopes to produce 6,500 coats this year. It made 4,500 a year ago.

“We get thousands of requests every year from people that want to purchase it for themselves — everybody from hunting/camping/fishing to doomsday prepping,” said Scott, who would like to start a retail arm as part of an effort to help the organization become sustainable. It currently relies on donations from corporations, civic groups and individuals.

“If we have a whole arm that’s based on producing a retail product, that is even more jobs,” Scott said.

Online: The Empowerment Plan


The Empowerment Plan


The Element S Coat or Tyvek Coat

The Empowerment Plan’s Videos


Veronika Scott – The Empowerment Plan

One Stitch Closer: Veronika Scott empowers other women

Getting to the Heart of Christmas at The Empowerment Plan in Detroit, Michigan


Say hello to Reginald, the first single dad to become a member of The Empowerment Plan! He has joined our team as the Production Control Coordinator and is assisting with material handling, quality control of production, and process flow. He is an amazing father and instantly became an integral part of our Empowerment family!

The Empowerment Plan // Branding Video

The Empowerment Plan – Veronika Scott – Part 1 of 3 – 14 April 2013

The Empowerment Plan – Veronika Scott – Part 2 of 3 – 14 April 2013

The Empowerment Plan – Veronika Scott – Part 3 of 3 – 14 April 2013

The EMPWR Coat

The EMPWR coat is a water-resistant and self-heating jacket, which can transform into a sleeping bag, or be worn as an over-the-shoulder bag when not in use. The coat is constructed of upcycled automotive insulation, fabric from Carhartt, and other materials provided by generous donors.

The Empowerment Plan can produce 1,000 coats on a budget of $100,000. Our studies show that for each 1,000 coats distributed, we can save 14 lives and reduce healthcare costs by $58,800 annually. Also, each recipient of an EMPWR Coat will make at least one less emergency room visit per year due to hypothermia. Assuming an average cost of $4,200 per visit, we estimate reduced healthcare costs of $58,800 for every 1,000 coats we distribute. Each year approximately 7% of homeless individuals die from hypothermia. Our coat reduces this statistic by over 20%.

It costs $100 to sponsor a coat, which covers the cost of labor, materials, and overhead expenses. Our goal this year is to produce and distribue 6,500 coats across the United States and Canada.

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Our Story

The Empowerment Plan is a Detroit-based nonprofit organization dedicated to serving the homeless community. Our goal is to help build a better life for those that have become trapped in the cycle of homelessness. We mostly hire homeless parents from local shelters to become full time seamstresses so that they can earn a stable income, find secure housing, and gain back their independence for themselves and for their families. 
The individual we hire are trained to manufacture a coat that transforms into a sleeping bag at night, and a bag when not in use.  The coats are distributed to homeless people living on the streets at no cost to them through partnerships we have established with outreach organizations in communities around the nation.
We believe in giving second chances to those who want it, and providing warmth to those who need it.

Our Team

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Our mission is to educate, employ, and empower homeless individuals to create a better life for themselves and their families while producing a humanitarian product for those in need. 

One Stitch Closer: Veronika Scott empowers other women

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How much does it cost to sponsor a coat?

We have a suggested donation of $100 per coat, as this covers our overhead and all associated manufacturing costs. The coat is very heavy-duty, long-lasting, and not a “one-season” garment.

Can I purchase a coat for myself?

At this time, our coats are not yet for sale to the general public. We are looking into launching a retail version and we will be posting updates on our progress.

Can I bring the Empowerment Plan model to my city?

We do indeed have plans to expand The Empowerment Plan to other cities, eventually even other countries! For right now, however, our commitment remains with Detroit.

Does the coat come in multiple colors and sizes?

At this time our coats come in only one size and the colors depend on what material has been donated. We have sized the coats and will eventually have them available in multiple sizes.


8 replies »

  1. Reblogged this on When Women Inspire and commented:
    I have to reblog this one! Here is a bit of background on The Empowerment Plan in Detroit:

    “Veronika Scott simply wanted to get an “A” on her product design project. And she did — with an idea that has changed her life and those of countless others. Now, the coat she created that can transform into a sleeping bag is providing warmth to homeless people and jobs for many who used to be so themselves.” ♥


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