Mayor, DPD, DTE and the Empowerment Plan partner to distribute 500 convertible coats to homeless

  • Effort made possible with $62,500 donation from DTE Energy
  • Coats distributed by Detroit Police Officers and homeless providers across the city


Every winter, Detroit Police officers across Detroit reach into their pockets to buy winter coats and warm weather gear for the homeless people they encounter every day as they fight to stay warm in the frigid temperatures. Our officers do this without asking for praise or anything in return.

This winter, with the generous support of DTE Energy and The Empowerment Plan, a Detroit nonprofit that employs and trains homeless parents to manufacture heavy duty coats for individuals in need, we’re stepping up to make sure our officers don’t have to do this alone.

Thanks to DTE’s donation of $62,500, Detroit Police officers and homeless service providers will be able to distribute 500 coats to homeless people throughout the city of Detroit, without spending of a dime of their own money. The custom coats include an interior panel highlighting critical phone numbers and emergency resources for the homeless. The coat can also be converted into a backpack that can be worn regardless of the weather.

“Without a doubt there is no population that is more deserving of our resources than those that are less fortunate and our officers take that responsibility very seriously,” said Detroit Police Chief James Craig. “Many of our officers establish close relationships with the people they routinely encounter on the street.  We will continue to make sure the resources of this Department are there to support them and to ensure that they are safe in our community and know they are valued.”

DTE Energy President and CEO Jerry Norcia said this effort to help Detroit’s homeless is in line with DTE’s values and its commitment to the City of Detroit.

“Each day at DTE, we work to ensure our customers are safe and warm. But we know for the homeless in our community, Michigan winters can be dangerous,” Norcia said. “We’re honored to partner with the City of Detroit Mayor’s Office, the Detroit Police Department and The Empowerment Plan to advance this important, life-saving outreach.”

The Empowerment Plan has been creating coats that turn into sleeping bags since 2012.  Empowerment Plan Founder & CEO Veronika Scott and Production Supervisor Jessica West came up with the idea of converting the coat into a backpack after seeing a number of people turn the coats into backpacks on their own, making it easier for them to keep track of their belongings. These coats are produced using upcycled fabric from companies such as GM and Patagonia and are intended to last for multiple seasons.

This coat is also a vehicle for employment and ensures that each person employed by the Empowerment Plan is able to earn a stable income, find secure housing, and regain their independence.

As of today, Empowerment Plan has provided employment to more than 85 low-income individuals, impacted over 250 children, and manufactured and distributed more than 45,000 coats globally.

“We’re so excited about this partnership because it supports The Empowerment Plan’s efforts to provide warmth to chronically homeless individuals right here in Detroit and demonstrates our willingness to come together as a community to support them throughout their journey,” Scott said. “Thank you to the Mayor’s Office, DTE, and the Detroit Police Department for your continued work to bridge our communities as you look for innovative solutions to some of our most challenging problems.”

In recent years, the city has seen a significant reduction in the number of people experiencing homelessness, based on the annual Point in Time count.  Among the reasons for the decline in homelessness are expanded outreach efforts to connect individuals with resources they need, such as help with job training, substance abuse or other issues.  The City also has shifted its focus to getting homeless people into permanent supportive housing, where they have all of these support systems available in an apartment building setting and their own private unit. 

“Our intention anytime we encounter a person experiencing homelessness is to get them off the street and into a shelter and on a path to permanent supportive housing," said Mayor Mike Duggan. "However, the reality is that for a number of reasons, many decline that opportunity, or will return to the street after spending a night in a temporary shelter. For those individuals, these convertible coats can be a lifesaver, and we are deeply appreciative to DTE for the funding to help us provide them to 500 people who need them."