SALT LAKE CITY / Desert News — It’s a coat and it’s a sleeping bag.
And on Wednesday, 700 of them will be given away during Valley Behavioral Health’s annual luncheon for people experiencing homelessness.
Thanks to a $70,000 grant from the Larry H. Miller and Gail Miller Foundation, people experiencing homelessness will receive a catered lunch and the gift of a water-resistant jacket that doubles as a sleeping bag.
The event will be conducted from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Valley Safe Haven Center, 550 W. 700 South.
The center serves people 18 and older who are experiencing homelessness and have a severe mental illness. The center provides day services such as a kitchen, showers, bathrooms, computer access, lockers, laundry and an array of behavioral health services and referrals.
Valley Storefront is a nontraditional outpatient facility providing services to homeless individuals with serious mental illness who may also have a co-occurring diagnosis, such as substance abuse. Storefront acts as an entry point into treatment for those who are hesitant to try traditional behavioral health options.
Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski and Pamela Atkinson, a long-time advocate for people experiencing homelessness and adviser to Gov. Gary Herbert, will attend the third-annual luncheon.
Gary Larcenaire, CEO and president of Valley Behavioral Health, expressed gratitude to the Miller foundation for its generosity to people in the community who are experiencing homelessness.
“As we enter the winter season, it is important to keep in mind that many within our community are without a warm place to sleep or regular meals,” Larcenaire said. “We hope these coats help them stay warm this winter.”
The coats were obtained from the Empowerment Plan, a nonprofit organization based in Detroit that is “focused on permanently elevating families from the generational cycle of homelessness.”
The nonprofit organization hires single parents from Detroit-area shelters, provides training and full-time employment as seamstresses with the goal of earning a stable income, obtaining secure housing and regaining independence, according to the nonprofit organization’s website.
“The individuals we hire manufacture a coat designed to meet the needs of those in the homeless community,” the website states.
Since 2012, the nonprofit has provided employment to 45 people, “all of whom have secure permanent housing for themselves and their families,” according to the website.
The Empowerment Plan has distributed more than 25,000 coats to people in need worldwide. The coats can be obtained through sponsorships.
The coat is constructed of durable, water-resistant Cordura fabric from Carhartt, automotive insulation from General Motors and other materials provided by donors.
It costs $100 to sponsor a coat, which covers the cost of labor, materials and overhead expenses.
By Marjorie Cortez