Homeless people naturally are skeptical of a friendly face, and most have their guards up. Luckily as an artist, when I show my drawings, and offer to sit and draw them for money a lot of them give me a warm reception. A hot coffee, and a warm meal, and two hours of chit chat, and we are new best friends.
The other approach I have is slepping big winter coats all over Toronto to give to them. Although I feel somewhat of a door to door sales man when I show the coats, they have been received enthusiastically because the coats themselves have a great story. These are coats made by homeless people for homeless people.
Veronika Scott was just a young design student in Detroit when she was challenged by her program to design something functional. Her grandfather challenged her to go to Homeless shelters and make something for the homeless. That is how the EmpowermentPlan.Org got started. The coats developed into something unique and functional, and her mission became clearer through resistance.
One homeless person told Veronika the truth, “Honey, we don’t need coats! We need jobs!”
Only homeless people get hired to make the jackets, and slowly the story and coats are gathering accolades and rewards. Veronika Scott recently made Forbes list of 30 under 30 for being a Social Entrepreneur.
The coats are warm, and fold out into sleeping bags. Sleeping bags only last three days on the streets, but the coats have a longer life and solve a packing problem. Although the coats are a band-aid solution, they are appreciated, used, and give me an immediate in with the homeless.
Eleven Coats were given out in 2014 and thirty coats will be given out in 2015. Below are some of the recipients.