She was pregnant in a homeless shelter. Then this job saved her life.

You've got to learn about The Empowerment Plan.

Jessica West never imagined she could be homeless.

But then she had an unexpected pregnancy. Then she lost her job.

And suddenly, her family was out of options.


West's story isn't all that unique, Veronika Scott, founder of The Empowerment Plan, points out. All it can take is a few setbacks for a person to find themselves in dire circumstances.

“We are not as far away from homelessness as we'd like to think we are. One or two things can happen, and anybody can tip.”

That's where The Empowerment Plan comes in. The nonprofit is helping women who, like West, need a hand-up.

The Empowerment Plan, which is based in Detroit, initially got off the ground when Scott wanted to create coats that could double as sleeping bags for people in her city who were homeless.

Her idea quickly snowballed into something much bigger than that.

"A coat is just a Band-Aid for a systemic issue," she explained in a video produced by Gap. "And what really would have the impact is hiring the population that would need [the coats] in the first place."

Today, The Empowerment Plan employs more than 30 formerly homeless women, including West, who make coats for others in need.

In Detroit, a city grappling with staggering rates of poverty, The Empowerment Plan is helping to change, and save, lives.

To West, working alongside others who've been in her shoes has made a world of difference.

“It was empowering, very empowering, to be around a group of women that knew my struggle," she says. "And to just connect with people on that type of level.”

The Empowerment Plan focuses on helping women find economic stability on their own terms.

"I think women have a really difficult time understanding how valuable they are," Scott explains, noting she, too, has had to overcome challenges being from a family that struggled with addiction."The idea of self-worth is very important to me."

Scott hires women exclusively from local shelters and trains them in areas like sewing, manufacturing, and tech — "whatever [skills] they need to become more independent, and to be proud of their accomplishments, and to be proud of themselves.”

The key, though, is allowing each employee to make the best decisions for herself, Scott says — not by Scott pretending to know what's best for her workers.


“This is not about us saying, ‘Oh, we know better than you,’ or, ‘We’re in a better situation than you, so we know what you need,’" she says. "No, you need to tell us or start figuring out what it is that you want to get to.”

With a job and support system, West can finally look ahead again. And she feels like now she has the world at her fingertips.

Her goal is to go back to school and possibly pursue work that can help The Empowerment Plan — which is aiming to expand into retail soon, thus creating more jobs — continue to grow.

“I know I want to help people and change the world,” she says.

“For me, being one of those people, basically out on the street, it’s like I’m giving back to another me.”

Watch Upworthy's Original Video about The Empowerment Plan below and learn more about the organization here:

More
Courtesy of Houseplant.

In America, one dumb mistake can hang over your head forever.

Nearly 30% of the American adult population — about 70 million people — have at least one criminal conviction that can prevent them from being treated equally when it comes to everything from job and housing opportunities to child custody.

Twenty million of these Americans have felony convictions that can destroy their chances of making a comfortable living and prevents them from voting out the lawmakers who imprisoned them.

Many of these convictions are drug-related and stem from the War on Drugs that began in the U.S. '80s. This war has unfairly targeted the minority community, especially African-Americans.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture

Climate change is happening because the earth is warming at an accelerated rate, a significant portion of that acceleration is due to human activity, and not taking measures to mitigate it will have disastrous consequences for life as we know it.

In other words: Earth is heating up, it's kinda our fault, and if we don't fix it, we're screwed.

This is the consensus of the vast majority of the world's scientists who study such things for a living. Case closed. End of story.

How do we know this to be true? Because pretty much every reputable scientific organization on the planet has examined and endorsed these conclusions. Thousands of climate studies have been done, and multiple peer-reviewed studies have been done on those studies, showing that somewhere between 84 and 97 percent of active climate science experts support these conclusions. In fact, the majority of those studies put the consensus well above 90%.

Keep Reading Show less
Nature
via James Anderson

Two years ago, a tweet featuring the invoice for a fixed boiler went viral because the customer, a 91-year-old woman with leukemia, received the services for free.

"No charge for this lady under any circumstances," the invoice read. "We will be available 24 hours to help her and keep her as comfortable as possible."

The repair was done by James Anderson, 52, a father-of-five from Burnley, England. "James is an absolute star, it was overwhelming to see that it cost nothing," the woman's daughter told CNN.

Keep Reading Show less
Heroes

I live in a family with various food intolerances. Thankfully, none of them are super serious, but we are familiar with the challenges of finding alternatives to certain foods, constantly checking labels, and asking restaurants about their ingredients.

In our family, if someone accidentally eats something they shouldn't, it's mainly a bit of inconvenient discomfort. For those with truly life-threatening food allergies, the stakes are much higher.

I can't imagine the ongoing stress of deadly allergy, especially for parents trying to keep their little ones safe.

Keep Reading Show less
popular