Chance the Rapper joins effort to get winter coats to Chicago’s homeless

Chance the Rapper hosts a high school "Open Mike" night in Chicago in February.

Chance the Rapper hosts a high school “Open Mike” night in Chicago in February.

(Terrence Antonio James / Chicago Tribune)

Depending on  your musical inclinations, you might know Chicago-based Chance the Rapper for his 2013 mixtape “Acid Rap,” or as a guest on NPR’s “Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me.”

But now, you should know him for something else: his humanitarian efforts to bring warmth to a cold city.

On Wednesday afternoon, Chance announced via Twitter that he’d be working with a project called Warmest Winter, which aims to bring 1,000 coats to Chicago’s homeless.

Homelessness is a serious problem in Chicago. According to the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, public schools identified over 20,000 homeless students – 98.1% of whom were children of color – over the past academic year.

There’s more to the coats than one might think. According to an online campaign site for the project, the “Empowerment Plan Coat” is made of “upcycled automative insulation, fabric from Carhartt,” and other materials. The coat is water-resistant and can be turned into a sleeping bag or used as an over-the-shoulder bag when not in use.

The “Empowerment Plan” in the coat’s name is the name of a Detroit-based nonprofit organization, which according to its site, mostly hires homeless parents from local shelters to make the coats. The organization provides job training and employment, with the goal of allowing people to find secure housing and “gain back their independence for themselves and for their families.”

Each coat costs $100 to “sponsor,” which the site says “covers the cost of labor, materials, and overhead expenses.”

Donors are invited to contribute in various amounts, and there are prizes ranging from tickets to Chicago Bulls or White Sox games, up to a meet-and-greet with Chance the Rapper himself.

Within hours of Chance’s original tweet, over $7,500 had been raised, translating to 75 coats. The campaign ends Jan. 13. The coats will be made in Detroit and distributed in Chicago following the end of the campaign.

In June, Chance also participated in a free summer musical festival for teenagers. In another event, he helped present Chicago schools with $100,000 for participating in digital literacy and college preparatory programs.

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