Business entrepreneur Veronika Scott first had the idea for what would become the Empowerment Plan when she was asked in a product design class to create something that people really needed. A resident of Detroit, United States, Scott knew the harsh winters were especially rough for the city’s homeless population, so she began designing and building unique coats to meet their needs.
After setting up the Empowerment Plan as a way to address the ongoing issue of Detroit’s generational homelessness, Scott began manufacturing these multi-purpose coats. Far from your typical winter jacket, the EMPWR coat also handily turns into a sleeping bag to provide extra warmth at night. Water-resistant, the coat is constructed from durable Cordura fabric. Aside from doubling as a sleeping bag, the coat can also be worn as an over-the-shoulder bag when not in use, and utilises sustainable materials wherever possible.
During the water crisis in Flint, Michigan that dominated global headlines, a number of people around the United States donated hundreds of thousands of cases of bottled water and money to purchase bottled water to ensure the health and safety of the Flint residents. The Do Your Part Program, a recycling program through General Motors, added nearly two million Flint water bottles to its recycling initiative. The recycled fleece from the plastic bottles is used to provide insulation for the Empowerment Plan’s coats.
During the project’s early stages, Scott was spending a lot of her time at community centres. It was here that she realised that people in shelters wanted more than just access to material goods - they wanted access to employment. It was this realisation that spurred Scott to begin hiring women who frequented local Detroit shelters to hand-make the EMPWR coats and distribute them throughout the area. Taking roughly an hour and fifteen minutes to make, her team of seamstresses can currently make around 35 to 40 coats in a day.
By involving homeless women in the design and creation of tools for their own upliftment, Scott and her seamstresses have motivated countless homeless women to get back on their feet and into the professional world, creating a workforce from an enormously overlooked population in the process. At $100 to sponsor a coat - which covers the cost of labor, materials, and overhead expenses - those who are interested in sponsoring one can do so by making a direct donation to The Empowerment Plan.