AMNA NAWAZ: Across the country, communities struggle to create jobs and end homelessness. One Detroit nonprofit has found a unique solution to help address both challenges. Special correspondent Mary Ellen Geist has the story.
MARY ELLEN GEIST: Casandra Grimes has been homeless for a year. But she has started to stitch her life back together.
CASANDRA GRIMES, Seamstress: I try to just make my life better than it was before.
MARY ELLEN GEIST: Grimes discovered a unique opportunity, working at the Empowerment Plan, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending homelessness through employment. The organization was founded by Veronika Scott.
VERONIKA SCOTT, CEO, Empowerment Plan: Both of my parents struggled with employment and addiction and poverty, and so it is creating an opportunity I wish had been given to my own family.
MARY ELLEN GEIST: While conducting research to design a coat for homeless people, Scott was confronted by a woman who told her that she didn't need a coat; she needed a job. That led Scott to launch the Empowerment Plan, which offers both employment and a unique product for people in need, a durable garment that can be transformed from a shoulder bag, to a coat, to a sleeping bag, and back to a shoulder bag.
VERONIKA SCOTT: The coat on its own is a Band-Aid for a systemic issue, and what really has the impact is hiring the people that would need it in the first place.
MARY ELLEN GEIST: Casandra Grimes admits the job has its challenges.
CASANDRA GRIMES: You got to focus when you thread, because I kept on breaking the needle when I first started. But I manage it now.
MARY ELLEN GEIST: Managing the work-life balance is a part of employment at the Empowerment Plan. Employees spend 60 percent of their paid time working and 40 percent improving their education and life skills.
VERONIKA SCOTT: Empowerment Plan started off as an education for me, and it really has evolved into creating that same opportunity for education for everybody.
MARY ELLEN GEIST: Grimes is studying for her GED, and plans to attend college and pursue a career as a seamstress. Employees work at the Empowerment Plan for two years, then transition out into the work force. Grimes has a year left, and the organization is helping her find an apartment of her own.
CASANDRA GRIMES: I really do feel empowered when I am here, because I can get a good job in the future knowing I have got my education. I love what I do. They helped me get back on my feet too.
MARY ELLEN GEIST: For the PBS NewsHour, I'm Mary Ellen Geist in Detroit, Michigan.