Empowerment Plan helps the homeless community with their unique coat design - and by giving them the chance they need to get back on their feet.
While it's great to donate to charity and volunteer your time, these aren't really sustainable methods of giving. The problem with charity is that relies on the continued kindheartedness of those with privilege in order to help marginalized communities. Instead, it may be best to devote your time, energy, and money to helping people get back on their feet and stop relying on charity entirely. That's exactly why this coat design is so revolutionary. Engineered by Empowerment Plan, a workforce development organization, this coat transforms into a sleeping bag to provide a safe and warm place for the homeless to sleep. What started as a simple coat design has now become an international force for change, CNN reports.
The coat in and of itself is innovative and weather-resistant. It transforms into a sleeping bag so users always have a safe place to sleep but can also be turned into an over-the-shoulder bag to store belongings. As many homeless individuals have to move around and don't really have anywhere permanent to sleep or keep their few belongings without the fear of theft, this is a revolutionary design. The coats are made using upcycled fabric, so they are good for the environment as well. Another debilitating aspect of homelessness is, sadly, the shame associated with it. Because these coats are made of high-quality materials, they can weather multiple seasons and still look brand new. As Empowerment Plan explains, "The hope is that when someone is seen walking down the street in one of the coats no one will know they are homeless."
For just $125, you can help someone stay warm for years to come. However, Empowerment Plan does far more than that. They also "create significant economic impact by serving as a stepping stone out of poverty into a state of stability." How do they do that, you ask? Well, they employ the homeless in their manufacturing units. The organization has instituted what they call a "two-year employment model," which provides job readiness training and support services to all its employees. Because of this model - and the resilience of the people they employ, of course - they have made sure all their employees were able to move out of the shelter within four to six weeks of working with them. Better yet, none of their employees have ever returned to homelessness.
Undoubtedly, Empowerment Plan's model is transforming lives. For Pam Warren, her job with the organization has helped her escape domestic violence and build a future for her two children. She married young and was a stay-at-home mom with an abusive husband. The physical abuse started early on in the marriage but persisted for years - until one day, she decided to pick up and leave. "I just left one day, for my kids," she explained. "I stayed so long because I didn't think that I could make it without him, financially, mainly, especially with the kids." However, she persisted. Sharing her story, she said, "For a long time, we went two days where we didn't (shower). We couldn't afford to bathe... My daughter was going to school, so she missed a lot of schooling because it was embarrassing, sending her to school without clean clothes and taking care of her hygiene."
When Pam finally moved into a homeless shelter, she learned about Empowerment Plan. They were hiring at the time. "I wanted a job, (but) it was a sewing job," Pam recalled, laughing. "I know nothing about sewing!" But after a series of interviews, she got the job. Now, she's back in school to get her GED. She has her own home and her children are doing well in school. She said she is immensely happy stitching the coats but even happier "just seeing them on the streets." She stated, "Everywhere you go, you'll see people, and you'll tell them, 'Hey! I made that coat!'" And that's the kind of impact Empowerment Plan has on dozens of lives. When you purchase their coats, you change lives.