Three times a week, seven N Street Village clients wake up before sunrise, lace up their running shoes, and hit the streets. They’re taking part in Back on My Feet, an innovative program that engages the homeless in running as a means to build confidence, strength and self-esteem.
Back on My Feet started in Philadelphia in 2007, and now has chapters in six cities nationwide. N Street Village’s team, which started in late August 2010, is one of six local D.C. teams. Our team members include clients, N Street Village staff members, and Back on My Feet volunteers, who provide coaching and encouragement, track attendance and mileage, and help the women set their individual and team goals. Running gear is provided to the women through a partnership with Pacers Running Stores.
What inspires team members to roll out of bed so early in the morning? One team member, Jakki, says that Back on My Feet is helping her lose weight and learn to eat healthy. Shirley, another dedicated runner, says Back on My Feet “gives me an opportunity to know me better, to push myself to do something I have never done before. It’s just something to look forward to. It clears my head in the morning when I run or jog.”
Team members who consistently attend the morning runs can participate in Back on My Feet’s “Next Steps” program, which offers connections to job training, employment and housing. Local teams also get together for monthly activities, which include volunteering at local races and outings like a recent Washington Nationals game.
Kristyn Carrillo, our resident marathoner and Assistant Director for Residential Programs, says Back on My Feet provides more benefits than just regular exercise. “It’s not just about the running – you’re part of a team. People rely on you for support and notice when you’re not there. They care about you. That sense of belonging is so important, and it’s why this program fits us so well – we’re all about community here!”