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Interfaith Sanctuary gets unique donation as cold front looms

The EMPWR coat is a water-resistant jacket, which can transform into a sleeping bag, or be worn as an over-the-shoulder bag when not in use. The coat, designed by the homeless for the homeless, is constructed of durable, water resistant Cordura fabric from Carhartt, upcycled automotive insulation from General Motors. Fifty coats were recently donated to the Boise Interfaith Sanctuary. (KBOI photo)

Just as colder temperatures are forecast, the Interfaith Sanctuary in Boise received a remarkable and unique donation to help some homeless people fight the cold.

They are called EMPWR coats, a water-resistant jacket, which can transform into a sleeping bag, or be worn as an over-the-shoulder bag when not in use.

The coat is constructed of durable, water resistant Cordura fabric from Carhartt, upcycled automotive insulation from General Motors, and other materials provided by generous donors. These coats are put together by homeless women in Detroit.

Fifty jackets -- at $100 each -- were donated to the Sanctuary by Bob and Sherry Holman of Caldwell.

A grateful Jodi Peterson, Sanctuary co-director, makes it clear the coats are intended to bring so-called shelter resistant homeless people into the shelter.

These are folks who may have mental issues and don't do well inside a shelter.

"Everything is kind of unsafe for them so they don't behave well," said Peterson. "So they get kicked out of the shelter and don't get to take their stuff with them."

Loss of bedding is a big worry for shelter-resistant folks and Peterson sees the survival coats as meeting them halfway.

"If we saw someone outside we could offer them the empowerment jacket and say look come into the shelter use this as your bedding," she said. "If things don't go well we will pack it up into a bag you will safely leave our shelter with your bedding with you."

The coats are not available to anyone just for the asking and the shelter will decide how to distribute them on a case-by-case basis.

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