It's more than a workout. This group's 5:15 a.m. runs are changing lives.
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.
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.
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.