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“There have been so many instances where our officers have purchased food, clothing, a cup of coffee and even transported those in need to shelters and warming centers. This is a true testament of our service to the community,” said Detroit Police chief James Craig during a press conference on Monday morning.

DTE employee passing out Empowerment Plan coats to Detroit police officers

Chief Craig was joined by Mayor Mike Duggan and DTE CEO Jerry Norcia to announce an exciting partnership to keep the city’s homeless warm.

This winter, thanks to DTE, Detroit Police officers and homeless service providers are distributing 500 very special coats to the homeless through The Empowerment Plan. The Empowerment Plan is a nonprofit that employs and trains homeless parents to manufacture heavy duty coats for people in need. Each coat converts into sleeping bag and backpack, and includes an interior panel with phone numbers for emergency resources.

Empowerment Plan CEO Veronika Scott came up with the idea of converting the coat into a backpack after seeing individuals who wore the coats had turned them into backpacks on their own, making it easier to keep track of their belongings. These coats are produced with fabric from companies such as GM and Patagonia, and serve as a vehicle for employment, ensuring that each person employed is able to earn a stable income, find secure housing and regain their independence.

“It was easy for us to say yes to this partnership,” said Jerry Norcia. “The reason DTE Energy exists is to bring warmth and comfort into people’s lives in their homes and in the businesses. What better way to accomplish that purpose than to help fund 500 coats? This is certainly at the core of who we are.”

DTE contributed the funds to create the coats, and employees volunteered to help distribute them. Ahead of the cold weekend, the company’s community vans were stocked with 400 coats and volunteers to get them to Detroit police precincts, so officers would have plenty of coats stocked up for the cold weekend as they headed out on patrol.

In recent years, the city has seen a significant reduction in the number of people experiencing homelessness. There are various reasons including expanded outreach efforts to connect individuals with resources they need, like job training, substance abuse and more. The City also has shifted its focus to getting homeless people into permanent supportive housing, where they have support systems available in an apartment building setting and their own private unit. 

DTE employees at the Empowerment Plan to load community vans with coats

“We know that there are a large number of individuals who just don’t want to go to shelters, and the reasons are very well understood,” said Mayor Duggan. “Even when it is extremely bitter cold outside, their health may still be at risk. For Jerry Norcia and DTE to step up and say you’ve got officers with that level of dedication and we are going to pitch in and make sure that we supply you with dollars. It’s a natural compassion that you feel. This is a good news story of a lot of people who care coming together.”