Every single night, more than half a million people in America are homeless – sleeping outside, in an emergency shelter or in transitional housing. It happens across the nation to children, parents, veterans and senior citizens. People lose jobs, lose their safety net and ultimately lose hope. Back on My Feet changes that.
Back on My Feet restores hope and independence through our innovative running program, the unparalleled community we build and the employment and housing resources we provide. Currently operating in 11 cities, Back on My Feet has served more than 6,000 people to date and has helped more than 4,000 individuals find employment and housing, but there is much more work to be done. We need your help. By signing our pledge, you help raise money for our programs and show that you care. By sharing America Runs, you help get America running to end homelessness.
WHY I RUN: When I heard about Back on My Feet, I had just arrived at US VETS’ Advanced Women’s Program, a shelter that houses female veterans at the Villages at Cabrillo. I had arrived there with the clothes on my back, straight out of the VA hospital. I’m not sure if I should call it divine intervention, but whatever it was, something in me said, “I can’t live this way anymore.” I was a drug addict, homeless, hopeless and didn’t know where to turn. Thankfully, my sister answered my call one more time and took me to the VA Hospital where my journey began on March 7, 2014.
Words cannot describe how utterly hopeless and lost I felt when I first arrived at the shelter. One day, while walking to breakfast, I noticed this group of people in a circle, doing these odd poses (yoga) and wondered what they were all about. Turns out, the Program Director of the group, showed up at our morning roll call the next day and informed us that the people circling up were part of an organization called Back on My Feet that uses running as a first step to helping people get their lives back together. My first thought was, “Oh. Bummer. I hate running.” Yet, somehow, when the Program Director asked who was interested in joining, my hand, on it’s own, went up. That was my first opportunity to do a contrary action. I didn’t like running, more truthfully, I had a fear of running. I didn’t feel I was good at it. Being the control freak that I was, I only did things, applied for things, signed up for things that I knew I could do.
I’m so glad I set aside what I thought I knew about myself and tried something different. The first thing Back on My Feet taught me was accountability. By showing up Monday, Wednesday and Fridays at the early morning runs, I got used to being accountable again. Showing up when I said I would. I hadn’t done that in a long time. Then came the structure. By throwing on my sneakers and showing up week after week, once again I had structure in my life. Somewhere to be at a specific time. Purpose. Without purpose, structure and accountability I had been so lost and hopeless. Back on My Feet’s showed me a different path. The community support, the staff, the volunteers they all helped me in immeasurable ways. They taught me about goal setting. Taking things step by step, or mile by mile. I was scared to death to run my first race, but I did it. Self-esteem boosted. Confidence increased. That gave me the courage to commit to running a half marathon. Race day, all nerves. A little bit fearful of the unknown. Not sure I could cross the finish line. Mile 9 was misery and self-doubt. Mile 11 I wanted to quit, but ego wouldn’t let me. Then came Mile 12. I saw all my teammates, staff and volunteers there, cheering me on. That gave me an energy burst beyond anything I’d ever felt before naturally or otherwise. I crossed that finish line physically tired, but spiritually empowered. My mindset was, “If I can do that, I can do anything else I set my mind do.”
That gave me hope once again for my future. I started wanting things for my life that I never thought I was worthy of before. Back on My Feet partnered with Marriott and set us up with financial management classes and a workshops to help us with our interviewing skills. That really helped me with my ability to sell myself to a prospective employer. It’s been a long, wonderful journey in getting to really know myself for the first time. Back on My Feet has been with me the entire time, guiding me, encouraging me and providing the right resources along the way. The volunteers taught me what it was to be selfless. Week after week, they showed up for us. They weren’t being paid to be there. They wanted to be there. That was amazing to me, because before joining Back on My Feet, my mindset was tuned to WIIFM “What’s In It For Me.” Today, I am no longer hopeless or homeless. I’m in my own place with my cat and, just recently, I was able to purchase a brand-new car which gives me peace of mind. As I am writing this, incredibly enough, the Long Beach VA called and officially offered me a job as a GS-6 Administrative Assistant in the ER Department. I have dreamed of working for the VA for years and this is truly a dream come true. I am a Federal Employee! Me! Thank you Back on My Feet for believing in me and helping me run towards a life beyond my wildest dreams.