The world can be a pretty cold place, especially if you’re homeless. Imagine sleeping outside, all alone, in a dark alley wondering if you’ll ever warm up. Imagine the despair you would feel knowing your clothes are all dirty, but you have no money to have them laundered. Try to picture the landscape of homelessness. A park may seem like a lovely place for a Sunday picnic—unless it is also your home.
The environment changes quite a lot based on how you define it. One female entrepreneur decided she would make an effort to help the homeless. Veronika Scott pioneered a winter coat that transforms into a sleeping bag. With over 20,000 homeless people in her home state of Vermont, she thought her invention would be a smashing success. Boy was she wrong.
When presented with this “life-changing” sleeping bag/coat, the women in the homeless shelter were not impressed at all. They said, “We don’t need coats. We need jobs.” Well, that threw Scott for a loop. Yet, she listened and came up with a new idea.
Scott jumped right into her next project, which was creating a nonprofit organization. She recently founded The Empowerment Plan, an organization which provides on-the-job training in the garment industry. She has provided jobs for some of the women living in the shelters, and these women are now learning manufacturing skills from professional seamstresses.
Scott said, “You need to invest in the person rather than the product.” Lucky for her, she was able to invest in people who, in turn, helped her to create more of her product. Her coats are still being handed out all across the country.
She currently employs 10 women—who are no longer homeless. They make about 600 coats per month. She plans to hire more workers with the goal of manufacturing 8,500 coats. The coats are still free to the homeless.
According to Scott, “I’m known as the crazy coat lady.” She takes it as a compliment.
With jobs and coats, the cold, dark days of homelessness may soon be a thing of the past for some. Perhaps a picnic in the park may turn into a reality. Yet, there is still a long way to go for many who remain homeless.