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When a person experiences homelessness, it can quickly affect their self-worth.

Losing a safe place to reside is only the beginning, as many individuals experiencing homelessness report feeling isolated and lonely. And their self-confidence can take a devastating blow.


GIFs via Back on My Feet.

In 2007, Anne Mahlum founded Back on My Feet, an organization dedicated to empowering the homeless through running and community-building.

26-year-old Mahlum was a runner in Philadelphia whose daily route took her past a local rescue mission.

According to the group's site, Mahlum knew firsthand the positive impact running could make on a person after taking up the sport as a teen. She contacted the shelter and offered to start a running club for the men living there.

Back on My Feet founder Anne Mahlum.

On July 3 of that year, Mahlum and the men at the rescue ran their first mile together, and Back on My Feet was born.

Through running and teamwork, members of Back on My Feet undergo a true emotional transformation.

Each team consists of people experiencing homelessness and community volunteers. Proper shoes and workout clothes are provided through donations. Team members run or walk three days a week before dawn, tracking their attendance and distance after each run. Accommodations are available for members with physical challenges.


But for many members, it's about much more than miles.

"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."

The result? A monumental shift in attitude, confidence, and self-worth.

Through the Next Steps phase of the program, Back on My Feet assists members in their transition to independence.

Once members run with the team for 30 days and achieve 90% attendance, they're eligible for the Next Steps phase of the program. Next Steps offers members job training, skills workshops, and access to employment opportunities.

Back on My Feet "helps me physically, mentally, and spiritually," said member Lee, in a testimonial for Back on My Feet Chicago. "And the financial courses have even helped me budget my money. Basically, Back on My Feet has just helped me grow."

Since launching in Philadelphia, Back on My Feet has expanded to 11 chapters in major cities across the country.

Back on My Feet is quite literally on the move, with teams in Washington D.C., Los Angeles, Austin, New York City, Indianapolis, and more, with countless opportunities to grow. The organization now serves hundreds of new members each year.

Eight years and nearly half a million miles later, Back on My Feet is stronger than ever.

Since 2009, Back on My Feet has served over 5,000 people experiencing homelessness. 46% have gone on to secure employment and/or permanent housing.

And that's what it's all about.

Because regardless of personal circumstance, everyone deserves the opportunity to build a community of their own, work hard, and remind themselves just what they're capable of.

Back on My Feet members share their stories in this moving video.

All images provided by Bombas

We can all be part of the giving movement

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We all know that small acts of kindness can turn into something big, but does that apply to something as small as a pair of socks?

Yes, it turns out. More than you might think.

A fresh pair of socks is a simple comfort easily taken for granted for most, but for individuals experiencing homelessness—they are a rare commodity. Currently, more than 500,000 people in the U.S. are experiencing homelessness on any given night. Being unstably housed—whether that’s couch surfing, living on the streets, or somewhere in between—often means rarely taking your shoes off, walking for most if not all of the day, and having little access to laundry facilities. And since shelters are not able to provide pre-worn socks due to hygienic reasons, that very basic need is still not met, even if some help is provided. That’s why socks are the #1 most requested clothing item in shelters.

homelessness, bombasSocks are a simple comfort not everyone has access to

When the founders of Bombas, Dave Heath and Randy Goldberg, discovered this problem, they decided to be part of the solution. Using a One Purchased = One Donated business model, Bombas helps provide not only durable, high-quality socks, but also t-shirts and underwear (the top three most requested clothing items in shelters) to those in need nationwide. These meticulously designed donation products include added features intended to offer comfort, quality, and dignity to those experiencing homelessness.

Over the years, Bombas' mission has grown into an enormous movement, with more than 75 million items donated to date and a focus on providing support and visibility to the organizations and people that empower these donations. These are the incredible individuals who are doing the hard work to support those experiencing —or at risk of—homelessness in their communities every day.

Folks like Shirley Raines, creator of Beauty 2 The Streetz. Every Saturday, Raines and her team help those experiencing homelessness on Skid Row in Los Angeles “feel human” with free makeovers, haircuts, food, gift bags and (thanks to Bombas) fresh socks. 500 pairs, every week.

beauty 2 the streetz, skid row laRaines is out there helping people feel their beautiful best

Or Director of Step Forward David Pinson in Cincinnati, Ohio, who offers Bombas donations to those trying to recover from addiction. Launched in 2009, the Step Forward program encourages participation in community walking/running events in order to build confidence and discipline—two major keys to successful rehabilitation. For each marathon, runners are outfitted with special shirts, shoes—and yes, socks—to help make their goals more achievable.

step forward, helping homelessness, homeless non profitsRunning helps instill a sense of confidence and discipline—two key components of successful recovery

Help even reaches the Front Street Clinic of Juneau, Alaska, where Casey Ploof, APRN, and David Norris, RN give out free healthcare to those experiencing homelessness. Because it rains nearly 200 days a year there, it can be very common for people to get trench foot—a very serious condition that, when left untreated, can require amputation. Casey and Dave can help treat trench foot, but without fresh, clean socks, the condition returns. Luckily, their supply is abundant thanks to Bombas. As Casey shared, “people will walk across town and then walk from the valley just to come here to get more socks.”

step forward clinic, step forward alaska, homelessness alaskaWelcome to wild, beautiful and wet Alaska!

The Bombas Impact Report provides details on Bombas’s mission and is full of similar inspiring stories that show how the biggest acts of kindness can come from even the smallest packages. Since its inception in 2013, the company has built a network of over 3,500 Giving Partners in all 50 states, including shelters, nonprofits and community organizations dedicated to supporting our neighbors who are experiencing- or at risk- of homelessness.

Their success has proven that, yes, a simple pair of socks can be a helping hand, an important conversation starter and a link to humanity.

You can also be a part of the solution. Learn more and find the complete Bombas Impact Report by clicking here.

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