Elizabeth Daigneau is GOVERNING's managing editor.E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
A nonprofit running program gets homeless residents on track emotionally and physically.
It started with the idea that running can restore stability to homeless lives. Two years later, a nonprofit has given that idea weight. Back on My Feet uses running as a vehicle to help homeless people become self-sufficient. Since its start, 44 out of its 170 members have found jobs, 31 have obtained housing and 29 have enrolled in job training programs or schooling. Back on My Feet teaches critical work and life skills that include discipline, respect, leadership, team work and goal-setting. Teams are created from residents living at homeless shelters in the Philadelphia and Baltimore areas -- a third chapter is planned for Washington, D.C., the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. The teams run together three to four mornings a week to reach goals that range from finishing a 5K race to a half or full marathon. The six- to nine-month program provides help in obtaining job training, educational scholarships and housing assistance. At a cost of $2,100 per member, the program is a cost-effective means of helping the homeless at a time when shelters are struggling just to make ends meet. It costs a shelter on average $2,100 a month per person or $17,500 to $23,600 a year per person just to feed and house the homeless. Researchers at Temple University in Philadelphia are studying Back on My Feet to determine the effect of running on self-esteem and commitment to a community, but clear benefits include providing stress relief and confronting the stereotype that the homeless are not able-bodied.