A social enterprise called Unlocked is opening new doors of opportunity for homeless people: designing and making beautiful jewelry for sale online and in local boutiques.
Vanderbilt graduate Corbin Hooker co-founded Unlocked to help the homeless escape the cycle of poverty and develop marketable skills. He initially ran the social enterprise out of his bedroom until a space came open at Community Care Fellowship (CCF), a Nashville nonprofit that serves the homeless.
“I wanted to employ some of the people that I’d been meeting and talking to,” Hooker told Nashville’s NewsChannel 5 reporter Kristen Skovira. “Everybody sees this issue. Everybody in Nashville is aware of this. So we’re trying to give other people an opportunity to help.”
The Unlocked website spotlights five formerly homeless women who design and handmake the jewelry, including necklaces, bracelets and earrings. The women sign their names on each product, which comes with a card that features the maker’s photograph and bio. One of the artisans, Gwen, is a single mom who served as a foster parent to various children before adopting and raising three girls on her own. Once the girls were grown and moved out, Gwen had to flee an abusive boyfriend and ended up living on the streets for more than eight years before joining the Unlocked team.
Working in Unlocked’s Transformational Program, Gwen and other women earn wages and live in transitional housing provided by CCF, where they pay rent and utilities in proportion to their wages. The longer they work for Unlocked, the more they earn until they can secure permanent housing.
Employees can also take Dave Ramsey’s 9-week Financial Peace University course to learn how to manage and save money and meet regularly with a CCF career counselor to identify their job skills and career aspirations, build a resume and develop job interview skills.
CCF Executive Director Ryan Lasuer said Unlocked is a perfect fit for his organization’s mission. “Each one of our homeless guests—or formerly homeless guests—get an opportunity to have that pride about making something—and making something beautiful,” he told Newschannel 5.