Helping Homelessness Through Running with "Back on My Feet"
When we moved to San Francisco a couple of months ago, we were struck by the city’s homeless population and decided to get involved with an organization called Back on My Feet (BoMF). True to its name, Back on My Feet is helping those experiencing homelessness across the country – but in a much different way than any organization we had previously been involved with.
Back on My Feet was started by a woman named Anne Mahlum. Back in 2007, Anne was living in Philadelphia and had a habit of waking up early every morning to go on a run before work. Her running route took her past a homeless shelter, and every day, even at dawn, she saw people standing outside. Eventually, Anne had the idea that the people at the shelter should join her for a run. She had started running as a teenager to cope with problems at home and wondered if running could do the same for these people suffering from homelessness.
One morning, she brought running sneakers to the shelter and asked if any of the residents wanted to join her for a run. Over the ensuing weeks, more and more of the shelter’s members joined her on her morning runs. Those morning runs have since grown into Back on My Feet, which brings homeless individuals together three times a week at 5:30am for a run, and connects them to employment and housing opportunities. BoMF has since spread to 12 cities and helped more than 6,000 members—placing over 2,500 in jobs and around 2,000 more in permanent housing.
Rex grew up with a love of running and has always found it be not only a unique way to bring people together, but also a metaphor for life; like any sport, it teaches you to challenge yourself, to overcome obstacles, and to persevere when things get tough. The idea of helping others through running—especially in a city like San Francisco, where so many residents suffer from homelessness—immediately resonated with him. Running brings both of us so much joy in our daily lives and has taught us so much; to be able to share that with others is a special opportunity. While food and shelter are of course essential to those experiencing homelessness, Back on My Feet is tackling homelessness from a completely different angle. As local advocate and director of Project Homeless Connect puts it, “You have to start with engagement before you can even think about housing… [Running] gives people hope; it gets people stabilized.”
Since August, Rex has gotten more involved and joined the Board. But the organization still needs more volunteers and donations, which are often used to buy supplies for the runners. Get involved here and consider joining for an early morning run. (We know it’s early, but it’s worth it!) Hope to see you out there!