Running for their lives

By Kate Hassett

Running for their lives
How one running group goes beyond fitness to change peoples lives.

Levels of homelessness are unfortunately rising, with very few governments focussing on the real and ever-present reality of displacement and mental health amongst those who go-without basic necessities, like water and shelter.

When a person experiences the effects of homelessness, their world can quickly go from being full of hope, to utter devastation incredibly fast. Feelings of self-worth go out the window, shortly followed by feelings of loneliness and isolation. This same isolation acts to erode capability and keeps them in the vicious cycle of homelessness.

When Anne Mahlum’s daily runs took her past a local rescue mission, she came up with an idea to help the men, in the same way running had helped her as a teenager.

This is when she realised she could help these people “if she stopped running by them and started running with them.”

So in 2007, Mahlum and the men at the shelter ran together for the first time and Back on My Feet was born.

The running groups are supplied with running gear through donations and community groups and meet three times a week before dawn. These runs are more than just ways to keep fit though, they go further to ensure these men have the best opportunity to make something of their lives and get back on track.

“We’re a primary service in which the wellness of the individual is our long-term pursuit,” Victor Acosta, executive director of the Boston chapter of Back on My Feet, told Upworthy. “So while the primary objective is the 5:15 a.m. runs and walks, we also provide wellness programming such as nutrition and yoga, and self-advocacy programming to help the individual.”

Once members run for 30 days and complete the month with 90% attendance, they become eligible for the Next Steps program, which supplies employment opportunities, job training and skills workshops, that boost confidence and help end the cycle of homelessness.

Since launching in Philadelphia, the initiative has extended to 11 major cities, with the program helping nearly 50% of their team mates find permanent housing and secure employment.

The initiative is working towards empowering these men to rise above their homelessness and believe in themselves once again.

Would you like to see this initiative in your hometown?


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