Running Helped This Woman Overcome Homelessness

"Sometimes it takes a bit more than money to help people get back on their feet."

When a woman named Brittany, 30, moved from Milwaukee to Los Angeles two years ago, her long-time struggle with alcoholism and addiction came back to haunt her. "I was totally broke," said Brittany in a PopSugar video. "I was homeless. I could not see a way out. The alcoholism took over my life." After seeking help at the CLARE Foundation, a local substance abuse center, Brittany discovered national nonprofit Back on My Feet. Their unique program combines running, community support, and essential employment and housing resources to help participants regain a sense of self and learn useful life skills.


It may seem unusual, but the running aspect of the program is the most crucial step in making a significant life change. Members have to commit to 30 days of running before advancing to the Next Steps portion of the program, which provides educational support and job training.  "I think it helps individuals set goals within their running," explained the organization's CEO Katy Sherratt. "That they can then translate those goals within their daily lives." 

Brittany is just one of the 4,500 members Back on My Feet has helped.

"My first run, we ran down to the beach," Brittany said. "It was early in the morning and everything was calm and the sun as rising. It literally made me so happy."

Along with helping members feel happier and establish goals, the running also helps change the way we think of people who are homeless. "Think about what you think of when you think of runner, you think 'type A,'" said Sherratt. "You think 'dedicated,' 'committed,' 'They're a real go-getter.'  When people typically think of homelessness, they maybe don't think about those terms. They maybe think about words like 'lazy.' I can tell you now that any single one of our members are far from lazy if they're up three times a week at 5:30 a.m. in the morning running. So I think it helps dispel those myths around homelessness."

Before restarting her life, Brittany withdrew herself from her family. "I had kind of isolated myself from them just from the shame of dealing with my addiction," she revealed. With the support of the program and rehab, she said, "I'm realizing I'm not alone in the situations I went through and there's a different way I can cope."

Brittany's circumstances and struggle with addiction had caused her to lose hope in herself. "I started to feel like I would never achieve anything in my life, even though I used to think I was capable of more," she said. "I have realized that actually I still have that capability in me." She is now a medical assistant at a dermatology clinic and has moved into a sober living house.  "Everyone has hard times in their life, and I don't have to drink over them," she said. "I don't have to do drugs over them. That's a revelation for me."

What makes Brittany's story so important is that she doesn't typically seem like a person who would ever be homeless. "Brittany has a Bachelors of Science, she's well-educated, well-spoken," said Illah Schalles, Back on My Feet's member services coordinator. " It could definitely happen to anyone. And anyone could come out of it also. It's a step backwards and then she's gonna take 50 steps forward. She's just gonna keep running."

Other members, like Samuel who struggled with homelessness after the devastation of his home during Hurricane Katrina, has also found salvation through the program, "It's about running, but it's bigger than running," he said. "Because the program helps you get your life back together."

According to a 2015 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) report, there were about 500,000 homeless people in the United State that year, a quarter of them children. Homelessness can happen to anyone and for any reason, and sometimes it takes a lot more than money to help people create a better life for themselves. Thanks to Back on My Feet, thousands of homeless individuals can do just that.

(H/T: Popsugar)

Cover photo via Popsugar/YouTube


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