Want To Give The Homeless A Hand Up Instead Of A Hand-Out?

They say that some of us grow and change gradually while others go in stops and starts with bigger moments directing the change. The latter has certainly been true for Veronika Scott a young woman in Detroit. She also has shown a great talent for "making lemonade" in her life. Now she is helping others make lemonade out of their lives with The Empowerment Plan.

Veronika Scott in her Shop (You Tube Image)Veronika Scott in her Shop (You Tube Image)

Scott explained that she started out in a hole that she had to find a way to climb out by herself. Both of her parents were addicts, making starting out in life harder for her than for most people. She worked hard and managed to get a scholarship to college. It was one assignment in one class that changed her life forever. 

Veronika Scott Talking with the Homeless About Her Coat (You Tube Image)Veronika Scott Talking with the Homeless About Her Coat (You Tube Image)

She was studying at the College of Creative Studies in Detroit where she was majoring in industrial design with an emphasis on critical theory and cultural phenomology. In one class she received the assignment to design something to fill a social need. She reached out to the large homeless population of Detroit to determine what she could come up with to fulfill her assignment.

Women at Work Making Coats (You Tube Image)Women at Work Making Coats (You Tube Image)

After five months of work she had come up with a heat-trapping jacket that can expand into a sleeping bag that is also wind resistant and waterproof. Even after the class ended Scott continued to work on the coats, developing improved prototypes, and giving coats away to the homeless. 

Seamstress with a Finished Coat (You Tube Image)Seamstress with a Finished Coat (You Tube Image)

The next "aha!" moment that changed her path came one day when a woman in a shelter noticed Scott and her coats and went rushing out to give her what for. She yelled at Scott that the homeless don't need coats, that they needed jobs. Scott took no offense for she realized that the woman was right. 

Her class project quickly evolved into a non-profit corporation called the Empowerment Plan. She hires homeless women to learn to become seamstresses and make the coats that go to the homeless. As the company grows she hires more and more women to fill her shop and transform their lives.

During the creation of the project Scott was often told that the organization would never succeed because the homeless women she hired would be worthless and she would be lucky if any of them bothered to show up for work. Scott enjoys proving those people wrong on a daily basis.

The women who come to work for Scott are quickly able to find housing and support their families, lifting them out of joblessness and homelessness. They gain back their independence and their self-respect. This, in turn, helps out the overwhelmed homeless shelters to be able to serve people who would otherwise be left out in the cold -- literally. 

The Empowerment Plan is not about the invention of a coat, or the invention of a non-profit organization. It is about people, especially women, learning to reinvent their lives.

Sources: The Empowerment Plan, Wikipedia