The Center for Recovery and Wellness has a large roster of partner organizations with whom we exchange referrals. One of this is Back On My Feet.
Back On My Feet is a national nonprofit organization that aims to change the way society deals with homelessness and addiction. Through running, community support, as well as employment and housing resources, they offer a comprehensive approach to rehabilitating their members and helping them achieve independence.
In order to join, members must be able and willing to work, and to go outside and run or walk. New members first commit to running three mornings a week at 5:30 am for two to three weeks. If they have 90% attendance, they continue running, but also begin work on their resumes, practicing interviews, and going to workshops with volunteers and staff. By restoring confidence and self-esteem, and by offering compassion and hope through a supportive community, Back On My Feet gives members a solid foundation to pursue their goals on and off the road.
William G. first became connected with Back On My Feet through the Pride Site Residential program at the Center for Recovery and Wellness (CRW). “It was amazing, I thought it was a really great way for people to find a healthy, supportive environment while in treatment,” he says. Since then, CRW and Back On My Feet have helped William get his personal trainer license, pay his back rent, and fix his credit. Now he is a Peer Advocate at Samaritan Daytop Village and he also does personal training on-site..
Cynthia Rodriguez is a Program Manager at Back on My Feet. She started there in 2019 as a Workforce Development Coordinator, visiting partner facilities like CRW, helping to recruit new members and offering vocational counseling. In her current role, she oversees relationships with five partner organizations who refer members to their program, including CRW.
“I think what makes us and our mission unique is the benefits of running such as setting goals, pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, and celebrating accomplishments, which is something that we’re really big on,” said Cynthia. “If you ran five miles this week, or you ran 25 miles this month, you get an award, depending on the marker. I think that shows how small wins can really build into a big achievement.”
In conjunction with running, the community support model distinguishes Back On My Feet from similar organizations. Cynthia spoke enthusiastically about the energy of the morning runs: “When you push through (waking up early) and you’re at the morning circle up with the other volunteers who are so happy to see our members there…once you like feed off that energy, I think that’s something that you can’t really put into words. That’s kind of the secret sauce of our program…how we’re able to make running which some consider a solitary activity into a group or a team activity.”
The nature of members, volunteers, and staff coming together around running also changes people’s preconceived notions about homelessness: “I think adding that community component and doing those morning runs…shatters some of those stereotypes that [members and volunteers] have around the individuals that we’re serving, and I think it also shatters our members’ idea that no one cares…It’s like a two-way street of humanity and community, it’s very special.” By offering an empathetic and comprehensive model for rehabilitating people suffering from addiction and homelessness, Back On My Feet is helping places like CRW shift how society treats these problems in general.