The City of Berkeley estimates that nearly 1200 people are living on the streets, but that number only covers those that have been reported (BerkeleySide). That number is too low to adequately cover the amount of individuals moving through homelessness in Berkeley. The homeless community is large and they are up against the same problem: a lack of affordable housing. However, the fact that they are united by this one issue does not mean that each individual does not have different goals and different priorities. With this in mind, it is important to consider the wants of the community when offering up solutions.
One thing that homeless individuals do have in common is the basic reality that they need a way to keep warm at night, but they are responsible for carrying everything they own. The product created by The Empowerment Plan, based in Detroit, started with this idea, and grew into a sustainable business working to break the cycle of homelessness. Veronika Scott created a product designed to alleviate the challenges of mobility and staying warm with her EMPWR coat. The coat can be worn to keep warm, but it also transforms into a sleeping bag and an over-the-shoulder bag. This functional design efficiently addresses the day-to-day needs of a homeless individual.
Scott and The Empowerment Plan then take it a step further by employing approximately 75% homeless women of color to manufacture the coats. Scott’s story goes that while she was developing her company, she was confronted by a homeless woman who told her that she didn’t need a coat — she needed a job. Scott listened to the input of the community she was trying to help and structured her company to address this need. More than 30 homeless women of color, have become skillfully trained through The Empowerment Plan, they have all gone on to afford sustainable housing for themselves and their families. The employment program focuses particularly on mothers and women living on the streets and trains them as seamstresses, simultaneously providing resources like professional development seminars and financial literacy courses.
The thing about The Empowerment Plan is that it isn’t just a coat that transforms into a sleeping bag. It’s the incredible story of a woman who saw a problem and decided to address it. It’s the story of people with nothing being provided with a temporary solution that is portable and warm. It’s the story of a company that doesn’t just dump money into a problem, but that offers solutions that can break the cycle of homelessness. The Empowerment Plan based in Detroit Michigan looks at homelessness from a big-picture perspective, and is creating and applying big-picture solutions. Veronika Scott’s company is innovative and solution-based, and it is making real change in real individual’s lives. The problem of homelessness can be overwhelming, but the story of The Empowerment Plan proves that intentional individuals can provoke real change.
Empowerment Plan http://www.empowermentplan.org/
You Tube http://www.youtub.com
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