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Coats that transform into sleeping bags handed out to homeless community

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Posted at 7:54 PM, Mar 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-06 23:00:09-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — It’s about to be springtime in Michigan, but the nights are still a bit chilly, especially for those who live on the streets.

That’s why two nonprofits teamed up to help them, and they’re using a unique “two-in-one” product to keep people warm.

“So, it’s really an opportunity to make sure that no one has to be cold,” said Dennis Van Kampen, President and CEO of Mel Trotter Ministries in Grand Rapids.

Saturday afternoon, their group was part of a big partnership to help the homeless.

“This is about providing dignity, and it’s about building a relationship to help people move out of homelessness,” said Van Kampen.

Their organization has seen an increasing need on the streets of West Michigan.

“Throughout this whole winter we found that even before COVID, homelessness has been increasing, and COVID has escalated that. So, the need for warm coats, for boots, for hats is greater than it’s ever been,” he said.

Some of those coats have a dual purpose. Not only can people wear them, but at night they can get inside to go to sleep.

“I’m just really glad we’re able to do this; especially after this year with COVID the need is astronomical,” said Veronika Scott, founder and CEO of the Empowerment Plan.

The nonprofit organization based in Detroit is trying to end the cycle of homelessness through employment.

“And we do that by hiring individuals from shelters from across the city of Detroit and employing them to produce coats that turn into sleeping bags,” Scott said.

They’re thick, heavy sleeping bags too. EP partnered with Chevy for an eight-city road trip to hand out 700 of them in the Midwest. They also gave away gloves, hats, socks and hand warmers.

For Van Kampen, it’s all about serving others.

“I believe that as a follower of Jesus we are called to love everyone – period. And we are called to see the value and the dignity in the image of God in them. No one was created to live on the streets or to have to wonder where their next meal is coming from,” he said.

For Scott, the entire experience is a personal mission, as her very own family was impacted by homelessness.

“Both of my parents struggled with homelessness and addiction and poverty and unemployment. So, it’s about creating an opportunity I wish that had been given to my own family,” she said.

The Meijer Foundation donated money for the 150 coats handed out on Saturday.

If you’d like to sponsor a coat or learn more about the Empowerment Plan, click here.

RELATED: Kalamazoo motel to be transformed into affordable housing with emphasis on helping the homeless

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