Coat that converts into sleeping bag gives warmth to Detroit homeless

Frances McInnis
Shine On
March 29, 2012

One young Detroit design student's school project has now helped hundreds of homeless people the city.

Veronika Scott designed a warm, waterproof coat that could be converted into a sleeping bag for a course assignment at Detroit's College for Creative Studies. A year out of school, she is now working with an outreach program in Detroit to teach women in Detroit's homeless shelters to produce the garments, which are then distributed among the city's homeless population of approximately 20,000.

Scott's project, called "The Empowerment Plan," helps keep people on the street warm and dry, and helps give jobless women a skill that could help them support themselves.

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"If done right, this would be a way to help end the homeless cycle," Scott told "We give homeless women jobs while in the shelter, so they can earn money, find a place to live, and gain back their independence for themselves and their family."

The project was assigned by industrial design professor Stephen Schock, who started the school's design activism class at the school in 2010.

"I looked around and thought, This city has such need, we have to figure out a way to have our students become problem-solvers here," he told the New York Times. His instructions were simply, "Design to fill a need."

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Scott honed in on the people sleeping outside of shelters because of pride, mental health problems or concerns about their privacy. The coat is made out of housing insulation and either recycled wool or synthetic fiber, according to NPR. Feedback from homeless individuals has been used to help refine the design.

Scott's work has received praise from media and entrepreneurs. The only drawback to her success? "I am now known as the 'Crazy Coat Lady,' " she told the New York Times.

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