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This Detroit nonprofit provides jobs, clothing and shelter all at once

Communities across the country are struggling to create jobs and reduce homelessness. In Detroit, a nonprofit called Empowerment Plan has found a way to address both problems. The organization helps people in need with a unique, multipurpose garment, employment and a path toward continuing education. Special correspondent Mary Ellen Geist reports.

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  • Amna Nawaz:

    Across the country, communities struggle to create jobs and end homelessness.

    One Detroit nonprofit has found a unique solution to help address both challenges.

    Special correspondent Mary Ellen Geist has the story.

  • Mary Ellen Geist:

    Casandra Grimes has been homeless for a year. But she has started to stitch her life back together.

  • Casandra Grimes:

    I try to just make my life better than it was before.

  • Mary Ellen Geist:

    Grimes discovered a unique opportunity, working at the Empowerment Plan, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending homelessness through employment.

    The organization was founded by Veronika Scott.

  • Veronika Scott:

    Both of my parents struggled with employment and addiction and poverty, and so it is creating an opportunity I wish had been given to my own family.

  • Mary Ellen Geist:

    While conducting research to design a coat for homeless people, Scott was confronted by a woman who told her that she didn't need a coat; she needed a job.

    That led Scott to launch the Empowerment Plan, which offers both employment and a unique product for people in need, a durable garment that can be transformed from a shoulder bag, to a coat, to a sleeping bag, and back to a shoulder bag.

  • Veronika Scott:

    The coat on its own is a Band-Aid for a systemic issue, and what really has the impact is hiring the people that would need it in the first place.

  • Mary Ellen Geist:

    Casandra Grimes admits the job has its challenges.

  • Casandra Grimes:

    You got to focus when you thread, because I kept on breaking the needle when I first started. But I manage it now.

  • Mary Ellen Geist:

    Managing the work-life balance is a part of employment at the Empowerment Plan. Employees spend 60 percent of their paid time working and 40 percent improving their education and life skills.

  • Veronika Scott:

    Empowerment Plan started off as an education for me, and it really has evolved into creating that same opportunity for education for everybody.

  • Mary Ellen Geist:

    Grimes is studying for her GED, and plans to attend college and pursue a career as a seamstress.

    Employees work at the Empowerment Plan for two years, then transition out into the workforce. Grimes has a year left, and the organization is helping her find an apartment of her own.

  • Casandra Grimes:

    I really do feel empowered when I am here, because I can get a good job in the future knowing I have got my education. I love what I do. They helped me get back on my feet too.

  • Mary Ellen Geist:

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Mary Ellen Geist in Detroit, Michigan.

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