News / Health

Running Group Helps Homeless Get Back on Their Feet

The morning routine includes being welcomed to the running circle by a greeting, a hug and a smile
The morning routine includes being welcomed to the running circle by a greeting, a hug and a smile

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Back on my Feet is a non-profit organization that works with people living in homeless shelters -- many addicted to drugs and alcohol.  The group sponsors run near the shelters to help those in need improve their health and self esteem.  Back on my Feet has branches in several cities in the United States

Participants reclaim their life

Nick Finnigan says he is happier and healthier since he started running with Back on my Feet six months ago.  His life had spiraled out of control because of drug and alcohol addiction that began when he was 16.  His substance abuse cost him his marriage and he’s not been able to hold a job during the past several years.

“I think, I’ll never stop thinking about the drugs.  But I just know I can’t go back to that and that’s not what I want. I have 2 kids out there.  I haven’t been involved in their lives and I want to be involved in their lives,” Finnigan explains.

The 33-year-old is now living in a homeless shelter called Clean and Sober Streets that offers drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs.  Finnigan joins others from the shelter, along with Back on My Feet staff and volunteers, for early morning runs several times each week. He says running with Back on My Feet is helping him get his life back on track.

Frances Thunder, a Back on my Feet volunteer, says no one runs alone. “There’s always somebody running with you to talk over what’s going on in your day, your week, what your struggles are,” she notes.

Organization empowers participants, lift self-esteem

Gretchen Gates, Program Director for Back on My Feet in Washington, says running gives the homeless a sense of accomplishment. “You come to the circle in the morning and you’re greeted with a hug and a smile,” she says, “and you’re a member of Back on Your Feet and that’s the biggest thing we can give people.”

Dena Cooper hopes running with Back on My Feet will help her overcome a drug habit.  She made a good living, she says, until drug addiction took over her life.  She briefly sought help at Clean and Sober Streets last year, but left to go back to a life that almost destroyed her.

“I felt alone and really lonely,” she says. “And I went back to my comfort zone, and my comfort zone was my friend[s] who get high and that is what I ended up doing.”

Cooper hopes this time will be different, and says running helps her release stress. She is grateful for the help she is getting and would like to begin a new career helping other women who have hit bottom.  

Finnigan says it is his goal to get a job and have a place of his own. He says he is determined to stay away from drugs and alcohol and follow his dreams.

Thanks to Clean and Sober Streets and Back on My Feet he sees a better life at the end of his struggle.

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