HVRP helps homeless veteran gain “Empowerment”

February 3rd, 2017
Formerly homeless veteran Armond Marshall now works at The Empowerment Plan after being helped by HVRP

Arriving at a Detroit shelter for homeless veterans, Armond Marshall was discouraged about his future.

It was August of 2015. He was almost 60 years old and without any source of income. Armond had lost his long-time job at a west-side service station that decided to close shop. His unemployment benefits had run out and he had exhausted his savings. Although a hard worker, he felt his job prospects were poor, not only because of his age, but because of his time in prison.

Armond cuts velcro for the coats made at The Empowerment Plan

Armond cuts velcro for the coats made at The Empowerment Plan

“The way our society is set up, if you have a felony, it is so hard to get housing and employment, even if your crime was far in the past and you’re a changed person,” Armond says.

While at the shelter, Armond came to a job club at the VA where staff from Southwest Solutions’ Homeless Veterans’ Reintegration Program (HVRP) were presenting. In the last year, our HVRP has helped more than 100 homeless veterans gain employment and more than 70 to gain housing.

Armond decided to enroll in the program and began working with HVRP caseworkers Claudia Edmonson and Ieisha Knight.

Armond received a housing voucher from the VA and Claudia connected him with Southwest Solutions’ SSVF (Supportive Services for Veteran Families) program. SSVF provided the first month’s rent and security deposit, and Armond moved into his own apartment last spring.

Claudia and Ieisha helped Armond get a packaging job at a warehouse and HVRP provided bus passes. The job enabled Armond to pay his bills and get back into the rhythm of the workforce, but he was also searching for an opportunity what would make better use of his skills and help him develop additional skills. So he attended a job fair that HVRP organized at Southwest Solutions’ Piquette Square for Veterans last fall. There, he filled out an application for an opening at The Empowerment Plan.

The Empowerment Plan is a nonprofit that provides jobs for individuals experiencing homelessness to manufacture winter coats that convert to sleeping bags for individuals who are homeless. The organization was founded by Veronika Scott. It has received considerable acclaim for its mission-based model to address poverty and homelessness. The Empowerment Plan typically hires women to work as seamstresses, but was open to hiring a man for the physically-demanding job of cutting the heavy material used to construct the coats.

Armond moves fabric used for the coats made at The Empowerment Plan

Armond moves fabric used for the coats made at The Empowerment Plan

Armond interviewed for the full-time position and then was offered it along with on-the-job training. He has been working at The Empowerment Plan for four months and is regarded as a valuable and dedicated member of the team.

“This job is a fresh start and a hand up,” Armond says. “I enjoy what I’m doing and it’s fulfilling to give back and help others who are homeless.”

Armond’s longer-range plan is to attend Wayne County Community College and earn a degree in social work. The college offers free tuition for seniors. Armond eventually wants to work in a peer support capacity assisting other seniors.

To learn more about HVRP, contact Claudia by email or at 313.297.0076.

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