Back on My Feet works to combat homelessness by empowering people through running

Running can do more than just get you in shape, it can change your life. Just ask the members of the Baltimore group “Back on My Feet.”

It’s been awhile since Deon Banks did any serious running. The last time he can remember running regularly is during his time in the military.

“I’m a two to three miler kind of guy,” he said with a laugh. “If I can finish that goal in a day, I’ve accomplished something.”

Banks has been with Back on My Feet for a little over a year. The group’s mission is to combat homelessness and help people who may be on the brink of being homeless. Banks found out about the program while at the Helping Up Mission, where he is staying to treat his addiction issues.

“I’ve been doing a lot better, I’m in college now,” Banks said. “I’m around positive people and I love being around positive people.”

It’s a positive attitude that helps motivate members like Banks to commit to running three days a week at 5:30 in the morning. Sydney Van Horn, the program’s development and marketing coordinator, says once the members can do that for 30 days, then they enter into Back on My Feet’s “Next Step” program.

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“It provides them with financial literacy classes, employment opportunities and housing resources,” Van Horn said.

So how does running help combat homelessness?

“We use running as a tool to empower rather than enable,” Van Horn said. “You’re using those values you get from running, like goal setting and accountability, and using them in your every day life.”

Banks said he likes having people who support and push him to do better. It inspires him to do the same for other members.

“We don’t leave anybody behind,” he said. “If someone is going through something, we’ll linger back and run with them. Or if they’re going through things and struggling, we’ll walk with that person. It’s all about having a support unit."

Some of the members really get into running and compete in local races. A few of them, along with Back on My Feet volunteers, will be running in the Baltimore 10 Miler on Saturday. Other volunteers will be cheering them on while passing out water at the mile nine water station.

“We look forward every year to being able to cheer on our runners and encourage them and be a presence. We want to be present in our members' lives, our volunteers’ lives and our community,” said Van Horn.

There are several ways you can help Back on My Feet. To learn more, click here.

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