Veronika Scott Reflects on Increased Production, Employee Demand at The Empowerment PlanJune 2, 2022
- Providing income is just one of the essential steps to building stability in employees. Employers need to consider mental health, physical wellbeing, and emotional stability as well.
- Empowerment Plan is now being considered a “broader solution” with a growing national and international demand.
Veronika Scott, chief executive officer and founder of The Empowerment Plan, a Detroit-based nonprofit that educates and employs houseless people to create coats that also serve as sleeping bags. Scott shared with Mackinac Policy Conference attendees a recap of the past two years of progress for the organization and noted the concerning increase in production need, thus increased houselessness in our region and beyond.
Since 2012, The Empowerment Plan continues to create economic impact by serving as a stepping stone out of poverty into a state of stability by providing an intensive two-year employment model focused on providing job readiness training and support services to the workforce. When COVID-19’s impacts hit the region, Scott and her team found a severe increase in reported domestic violence in their research and in their inventory production.
“Right before the pandemic, about 40-50% of the people we served had experienced domestic violence,” Scott said. “In the survey we did a year ago, [we found] 100% of the people we served had actively experienced domestic violence.”
At the same time, all The Empowerment Plan’s shelter partners rigorously reduced occupancy because of COVID-19. This caused to a 75% decline in the number of people that the Empowerment Plan could hire themselves – which led to enhancing their assessed vulnerability test to select the right hiring decisions, a similar process to how shelters select individuals to take into their system. Using this test, Empowerment Plan looks to hire the most vulnerable individuals whose situations will become more stable and less vulnerable over time.
“What we’ve seen, also because of COVID-19, is that no matter how much money you made, that vulnerability score went WAY up,” Scott said. “Because it’s about the whole person. It’s not just about the income. It’s all of the things that have to do with mental health, physical wellbeing, and emotional stability. All of these things go into the ability for somebody to come to work every day.”
Since the pandemic began, the Empowerment Plan now provides on-site therapists, in addition to tutors and other supportive aids that employees now spend 40% of their workweek utilizing.
Scott implored that these houseless individuals are “going as fast as they can” to the other limited options available to them, including public and private housing programs like Section 8, or sleeping in cars. These alternative solutions caused Empowerment Plan to expand its database to now include these specific vulnerable people too. This also caused their coat production to skyrocket.
According to Scott, they planned to create 10,000 coats in 2022 – which have already sold out within two months of their 2022 fiscal year and have an additional 8,000 on their waiting list. The demand has now grown nationwide, not just regionwide.
“At this point, there’s demand that is completely unprecedented,” Scott said. “We’re trying to hire as many people as we can and work with all of these incredible organizations that want to refer talent but can’t seem to get those amazing new jobs out into the community.”
The Empowerment Plan is now being considered as “the broader solution” to transitioning out of houselessness and becoming employed and more stable over time, according to the national and now-international partners that the nonprofit works with. Further, Scott also says all their houseless employees were able to move out of shelters within 90 days of starting the intensive.
For more information about the Empowerment Plan, please visit www.empowermentplan.org.