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Mary Ellen Geist
Mary Ellen Geist
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.
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.
I try to just make my life better than it was before.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Casandra Grimes admits the job has its challenges.
You got to focus when you thread, because I kept on breaking the needle when I first started. But I manage it now.
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.
Empowerment Plan started off as an education for me, and it really has evolved into creating that same opportunity for education for everybody.
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.
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.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Mary Ellen Geist in Detroit, Michigan.
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