The stats nationwide say that there are too many homeless people seeking help at shelters. Enter a young design student, Veronika Scott, who took a stab at solving the problem by designing a coat for the homeless which doubles up as a sleeping bag:
A design student at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, Scott conceived her coat-bag for a class project in 2010 – and now she’s planning to go national with it.
The Detroit native has watched the homeless population of her economically savaged city explode to more than 30,000 in recent years, and she wants to help.
“What I found, in working at shelters and getting to know homeless people, is that pride is one of their biggest needs,” Scott said. “Whether or not they can get into a shelter, they want to be able to take care of themselves.”
Part of that pride, Scott learned, meant being able to sleep outside without freezing to death. In Detroit in the winter, a homeless person can die of exposure even in the daytime.
To Scott, the logical thing was to devise a warm coat for the daytime that could also be used as a life-saving blanket at night.
Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/09/10/BAHR1L2HK8.DTL#ixzz1Xk8lETCr
The coat is made of synthetic quilting material and Tyvek. The tyvek serves as the waterproof insulating part that makes the coat light and protective. It only ways 1 pound.
“I didn’t mean this coat to make it seem like it’s OK to sleep outside, but our shelters are just so full,” Scott said. “And this is something that can help people in the meantime. It’s really a basic survival thing.”
She presented one of her early prototypes Friday at the Social Capital Markets Conference at Fort Mason, an annual gathering of national entrepreneurs and innovators with an environmental and do-gooding mindset. Amid the admiring oohs and ahs, workshop co-organizer Sarah Brooks said Scott’s idea could catch fire even on the less-frigid West Coast.
“I am so impressed with her,” said Brooks, director of social innovation for the Hot Studio design firm in San Francisco. “She could totally take this thing to scale. I mean, it’s even stylish – I’d wear it.”
Over the past year, Scott has handed out 25 coat-bags to homeless people in the Motor City and gathered rave reviews from NPR and newspapers in Michigan. With companies from Dupont to Acme Mills interested in helping her, she said, she’s ready to graduate in December and start producing her coat-bags – called Element S (for survival) – in big numbers.
She’ll start with three employees and intends to hire homeless women. The goal is to sell one type of the coat to non-homeless people for a profit, and to use the proceeds to produce others to give free to folks on the street.
This entrepreneurial idea is all part of the Detroit renaissance, that is driving young creative types to rethink and reimagine their city. Scott’s web site is even called The Empowerment Plan. Creative economy peeps are busy transforming an old printing plant into a collective space, in their words:
The building is called 1401 and is a giant collective of fashion designers, screen printers, chefs, business people, sculptors, musicians, and me. It is 43,000 sq. ft.! 1401 was home to a printing company for years and had almost become another abandoned building in the city. You can definitely tell the building was at it’s peak in the 80′s- there are tons on sunset landscapes, brick-like cars, and women with big hair. The walls are all beige and they seemed to have a huge fascination with drop ceilings. The coolest part of this place, besides the size, the air conditioner, and the people, are the bathrooms… why? Because apparently they wanted all executive bathrooms, which are covered in gold filigree with black porcelain everywhere and high ceilings.