Making Strides to Outpace Homelessness

Adam Sennott

They started in Philadelphia then expanded to Baltimore. After that it was Washington D.C. And pretty soon they will officially be on their feet in Boston.

Back on My Feet is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping the homeless become self-sufficient while also improving their confidence and belief in themselves through running. Although Back on My Feet (BOMF) won’t officially be introduced in Boston until May, the organization has already established itself in the community—the group even featured runners in this year’s Boston Marathon.

According to Back on My Feet’s website, the organization began after Founder and President, Anne Mahlum, got to know a group of homeless men she would pass on her daily run.

Back on My Feet’s website describes the encounters: “What started out as waves and smiles from a distance became more intimate as they developed a comfort level with one another. And one morning a simple idea stopped [Ms. Mahlum] in her tracks. With a call to the shelter and the astounding support from the community and the media, Philadelphia’s first Homeless Running Club was well, up and running. The first run took place on Tuesday, July 3rd at 6am”

While Back on My Feet was a success in Philadelphia, they had always hoped to expand their program to other states. And a year later they did just that when they brought the initiative to Baltimore.

“Back on My Feet made the decision that, before expanding, we needed to know exactly what, and who, it took to build a strong, sustainable chapter,” said Sandra Maro, Director of Growth and Expansion for BOMF. “After about a year in existence, Back on My Feet decided to launch the first satellite chapter, Baltimore; we celebrated their one year birthday this spring.”

After figuring out how to successfully expand their program, BOMF followed their initial successes by subsequently setting up shop in Washington D.C. Now, the organization will make their official debut in Boston, where they will have three teams, on May 24th.

“The three teams are the Boston Rescue Mission, Hope House, and yesterday we just brought on St. Francis House,” said Vic Acosta, Boston Program Director, of the three offices in Boston. “They are very important to us. It’s how we’re going to establish ourselves in Boston.”

Although their presence won’t become official until May 24th, BOMF is already making a mark on the city. The organization has received one of the first grants given out by the Hall Steps Foundation, a foundation they were introduced to through John Hancock.

“John Hancock is the principal sponsor for the Boston Marathon and, as such, supports elite athletes like Ryan Hall,” said Maro. “In addition to all of the support they give to BOMF, they were kind enough to make the introduction between Back On My Feet and Ryan and his wife Sara. The Hall’s started a foundation called the Hall Steps Foundation with the target of ending poverty worldwide.” Maro continued, “They honored us with one of their first grants—a generous amount of $10,800 dollars, which is the amount it costs to get six members through the Back On My Feet Program.”

Along with making their debut in Boston this May, Back on My Feet will also be announcing a merger with Veterans Up and Running, an organization which shared a similar philosophy with Back on My Feet. Veterans Up and Running was itself featured in the July 16th, 2009 issue of Spare Change News.

“I’m excited to be able to increase the scale, breadth, and reach of the program we started back in 2009,” said Shannon Varney, Founder of Veterans Up and Running and Director of Development for the Boston Chapter of Back on My Feet. “To be able to offer such a uniquely powerful program to several facilities here in Boston is something that will change the community forever.”

For more information about BOMF, visit www.backonmyfeet.org.

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