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Good People, Good Work

Empowerment Plan – Bringing Warmth and Opportunity to Unhoused People

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Today we present the Empowerment Plan, a non-profit organization based in Detroit, Michigan, United States, which employs unhoused parents to produce sleeping bag coats for the larger community of homeless people. Founded in 2011, this Shining World Compassion Award recipient’s mission is to uplift the unhoused, help them regain confidence and independence, and halt the generational cycle of poverty and homelessness. Let’s meet the person behind it all, Veronika “The Coat Lady” Scott, a Detroit-based entrepreneur and the founder and CEO of the Empowerment Plan. A Detroit-native, Ms. Scott grew up in poverty. While a student, she was assigned a class project to create a product that fulfilled a need in her community. She chose a cause that was deeply personal to her: people experiencing homelessness. During her research to better understand the local community’s needs, Ms. Scott visited various emergency shelters around Detroit. She observed that shelters don’t meet an individual’s emotional needs for independence and self-reliance. This became the inspiration for her to design a warm coat for those without homes – better known as the EMPWR coat. During a visit to test out the coat’s design at a local shelter, Veronika was scolded by one of the regulars, who yelled, “Look, what you’re doing is pointless. I don’t need a jacket – I need a job!” At that moment, she realized that a coat only provides a short-term solution and doesn’t have a lasting impact. Ms. Scott immediately committed to providing jobs to help end the cycle of poverty and homelessness, and just like that, the Empowerment Plan was born. The Empowerment Plan employs low-income, single parents living in shelters. They are trained to sew the EMPWR coats for those living on the streets, giving the workers the opportunity to earn money and find housing, while regaining their independence. In April 2020, along with giving the Empowerment Plan the Shining World Compassion Award to recognize its noble work, Supreme Master Ching Hai also made a humble, loving contribution of US$20,000 “to support this benevolent endeavor, with all love, gratitude and best wishes in Heaven’s grace.”

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