Women’s Bean Project: Smart Assistance for Those in Need

In the 1980s, Jossy Eyre volunteered at a Denver homeless shelter. She began to realize that although that the shelter provided many essential needs, people needed a different type of support to change their lives permanently. In 1989, Eyre bought 500 dollars’ worth of beans and employed two homeless women to sell the beans, thus creating the foundation for an organization she named “Women’s Bean Project.” Four years later, King Soopers began to carry their products. After only six years, the project purchased a former firehouse, which is where the headquarters for the foundation are located to this day. Today, the organization’s budget has grown substantially, from $6,100 to over $1.5 million annually.

The significance of Women’s Bean Project cannot be overstated. More than three and a half million Americans struggle with homelessness every year, to include veterans, those suffering from a mental illness, and domestic violence victims. Women’s Bean Project successfully combats the homeless problem in a well-organized and fiscally responsible manner. Though this social enterprise started out selling only beans, the variety of gourmet products they have to offer has broadened immensely, as has its training methods. Now, the organization trains and “employs chronically impoverished and unemployed women through a transitional job in gourmet food and handcrafted jewelry manufacturing to receive immediate income, and helps them earn the job readiness, interpersonal and life skills needed to overcome barriers to employment.”

The women who seek out the program often begin with little hope or self-esteem. Many of them never obtained a GED or high school diploma. Single mothers under government assistance, women who suffered from substance addiction, and previously imprisoned females commonly participate in the program. The women start earning an income immediately, getting services provided to them, and learn skills efficient to gain employment through entry-level jobs.

Nevertheless, those who complete the program leave with the ability to achieve more than they imagined possible.The program consists of three phases. The first one, known as the “stabilization phase,” usually lasts about two months. In this phase, introductions to the program and manufacturing processes within the company take place. When the women start to demonstrate a good work ethic, they transition into the second phase, where they begin to learn the shipping and labor aspects of the company. After about four months, in the final phase, women focus on career building skills. Classes are also provided to help the women in the program earn their GED and improve their computer literacy skills.

The selection of Women’s Bean Project products continues to expand. It includes jellies, baking mixes, gift baskets, handcrafted jewelry, gluten-free products, and even books. Customers who live outside the Denver area can now shop for these items through the online store. Additionally, gift certificates are available for those who wish to support the cause while purchasing a gift for someone at the same time. Every month, the project also holds wine tastings at the Park Hill Golf Course in Denver. The ticket price is $35 and includes hundreds of wines samples and many different types of appetizers. Ten dollars of every sale is donated to Women’s Bean Project.

Like Women’s Bean Project, many non-profit organizations are available for homeless people to utilize. These companies continue to grow stronger, expand their horizons, and entitle people previously considered unemployable to find better opportunities in life. These success stories prove that people can overcome seemingly insurmountable life struggles and move forward. If we keep these projects alive and remember to help others in need, the battle against homelessness for the poverty-stricken population in America is far from lost.