Here is a unique twist on the spirit of giving: two local business owners are providing practical solutions for people at the Interfaith Sanctuary homeless shelter.
Fifty “Empower” survival coats have been donated. They are made for the chronically homeless and they are crucial for people living on the streets in these below-freezing temperatures.
Directors at Interfaith Sanctuary say there were about 40 people sleeping outside in the cold the night before Thanksgiving. Many are often battling mental illnesses and other conditions that make it almost impossible to stay in shelters, and may cause them to act out.
Co-Director Jodi Peterson says she saw these Empower coats last month on Facebook and thought they were an incredible invention. Then she received a call from a woman named Sherry Holman.
Sherry and her husband Bob own Holman Transportation Services in Caldwell and wanted to help out the homeless in any way they could.
She asked Jodi if she heard of the Empower coats and told her she wanted to donate 50 of them -- each costing a hundred dollars.
The coats are made of durable materials from Carhartt and GM. They keep people alive outside in below-zero temperatures.
The amazing thing is they are designed to transform into sleeping bags that someone can actually carry.
Peterson says it was a miracle -- an answer to their prayers -- in figuring out how they can get these people into the shelter.
“Their history has been they go into a shelter, they check their things in, they’re kicked out and they lose their stuff, so they don't have their bedding anymore, and it’s not worth the risk to them, they’d rather risk it outside,” said Peterson. “It’s a way to connect with the shelter resistant and let them know that we are trying to come up with safe solutions until there’s permanent solutions for them.”
Shelter directors are planning to talk with those people outside on the streets and offer those jackets as bedding, letting them know that if the shelter doesn't work out for them, they can at least take the coats with them and still stay warm.
The shelter's hope is that these Empower coats will allow them to provide shelter for those shelter-resistant folks, and then case management services.
The coats are inside Interfaith Sanctuary administration offices. Peterson says they plan to bring them to people outside very soon.