homeless

Veronika Scott and Her Amazing Dream Coat

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By Tom Murray

I don’t know about you, but when I watch the nightly news, I look forward to the last news item of the broadcast. You know the one. It is usually a heartwarming story of how one individual is reaching out to another, oftentimes in the most inventive way imaginable. Well, I didn’t hear about this story from my nightly news but it does fall into the same category.

This story comes out of Detroit and is about a young lady who is literally stitching together new hope and dreams for the homeless. Her name is Veronika Scott. Veronika, who is only 23 years old, had a radical idea, and she is now acting on that idea to the delight of many in the city of Detroit. She makes coats out of scrap material and delivers them to the homeless. But this is no ordinary coat and the scrap comes from no ordinary source. You see, this coat converts to a sleeping bag. Further, the scrap material she uses is unused material from the production of vehicles donated by General Motors Corporation. John Bradburn of General Motors tells me that he gave 2,000 yards of scrap sound-deadening material used inside select GM cars — enough to make 400 coats. Oh, and did I mention that these coats are actually stitched together by women in Detroit, who just months ago were homeless?

John is GM’s Global Manager of Waste Reduction and is also a member of the Suppliers’ Partnership for the Environment, an organization of automotive manufacturers and their suppliers who work together to advance the sustainability message throughout the automobile supply chain. This is where I met John, as EPA attends the Suppliers’ Partnership meetings as a federal liaison.

John and Veronika’s efforts here are a classic example of sustainability. Unused scrap material is diverted from the landfill (environment) and is being used instead to help a fledgling non-profit enterprise grow (economy). Further, it is offering a helping hand to the homeless (social). John hopes to invite Veronika to the next Suppliers’ Partnership meeting, and I intend to be the first in line to shake her hand.

Veronika’s efforts have not gone unnoticed by those outside of Detroit. The word is that she will become the youngest person ever to receive the New Frontier Award from the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. See more on Veronika’s remarkable efforts..

About the author: Tom Murray is a senior scientist with the United States Environmental Protection Agency and is currently Chief of the Prevention Analysis Branch in the Agency’s Pollution Prevention Division.  Tom has 40 years in government service.  Tom and his staff are the architects of several environmental partnership programs including the Hospitals for a Healthy Environment program, the Green Suppliers Network and the new E3 (Economy, Energy and Environment) initiative, a cross-agency collaboration with industry focused on manufacturing growth, energy efficiency and environmental.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Health Effects of Homeless Children

In high school I volunteered for a non-profit organization called “Stepping Stones,” a program that provides transitional housing for children. I set up a table outside of the cafeteria to help raise money and spread information about the organization. There was another student helping me. I didn’t know her very well, but I decided to start a conversation with her as I knew I would be volunteering with her for the day. I soon learned that she was a part of the Stepping Stones program. At that moment I realized that homelessness does not always have the usual, negative stereotype. The truth is that that the majority of homeless people in America are children.

The recession has caused many single parents to lose their jobs and remain unemployed, making the problem worse. This leaves families unable to pay bills and to lose their homes. Children are forced to live in undesirable conditions because their parents are unable to bring in a sufficient income. It is a somewhat silent issue because of the embarrassment that comes with being homeless. Families will only turn to homeless shelters and soup kitchens as a last resort because the embarrassment is more hurtful than living in adverse environments.

These children must deal with stress on a daily basis. Even those who are not yet homeless but rather in jeopardy of becoming homeless or living in poverty must face the stress of potential homelessness. Children under such conditions worry about getting enough food, whether or when they will be kicked out of the house, how friends will react once homelessness is announced, and whether the child will be kicked out of school because of the lack of residency.

The stressors of being homeless can lead to many homeless children feeling depressed, causing detrimental health effects. Stress over long periods of time can cause the immune system, digestion system, and growth and reproductive systems to slow down or stop. Children are more at risk as they are still in the growing process. This is when psychological issues turn into physical. Not only is a child feeling depressed, stressed, and isolated, but the child is now suffering from health problems as well.

About the author: Nicole Reising is an intern at the Office of Children’s Health Protection. She is a sophomore studying non-profit management at Indiana University.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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