Getting homeless back on their feet by running

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- There’s a unique approach to getting the homeless back on their feet, and they’re doing it in the literal sense.

Three times a week, a group of runners gathers on Monument Circle and encourage each other just before taking those first steps.   Among the runners is Jeremy Turner, 37, who walked to the Circle from Wheeler Mission.

“It takes my mind off things,” said Turner who is a member of Back On My Feet, a national organization with a local chapter that uses running as a way to get the homeless off the streets and into housing and employment.

“They push me to run, make sure I’m alright every morning,” said Turner.  “That says a whole lot right there.”

Chrissy Vasquez is the executive director and explains how this unusual approach really does work.

“So our members come out three days a week in the morning to run rain or shine,” said Vasquez.  “Running really equalizes everything.  When we come in the morning to the Circle you don’t really know who is coming from where, whether somebody is coming from the suburbs of Carmel or somebody is coming from one of the shelters that we serve.”

Runners like Turner even take part in local races.   Vasquez said the idea is about setting goals, and accomplishing them.  Then Back On My Feet puts their runners in contact with job skills training.

“We have different employment partners who prefer to interview our members knowing that if they’re going to get up that early in the morning, they’re going to come to work,” said Vasquez.  “Locally in Indianapolis we’ve served more than 550 members since 2011 with a third of those finding housing and employment.”

Turner has plans of completing the Second Helpings culinary program, and then hopefully getting his GED.  Turner believes Back On My Feet will help him succeed.

“We’re all family.  We’re not just friends.  We’re family,” explained Turner.  “We support each other through the good and bad.  We all have our struggles.”

Back On My Feet is working to build their own apartment complex in Indianapolis so their members have a place to transition to after they’ve completed the program which typically takes 6-9 months.

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