PHILADELPHIA, PA -- An organization called “Back on My Feet” is asking homeless men and women who live on the streets of Philly to wake up early and get out into the street to go for a morning run.
In the Point Breeze section of the city, seven men who live in the Surge Recovery Center off Morris Street wake up three times a week to meet their running group.
Willie Mewborn is one of those men. Willie says he wakes up at the crack of dawn, walks across the street, and meets up with his BOMF running group.
“I had a life of crime and drugs. Life just got boring and hopeless. It was time for me to make a change,” explained Mewborn. "When I saw them getting up at five o'clock in the morning, I’m thinking that they are going to work or getting ready to go to a job site or something."
Willie soon learned the running group was part of Back on My Feet. Back on My Feet recruits members at homeless and residential facilities around the country and begins with a commitment to run three days a week in the early morning.
After 30 days in the program, members with 90% attendance earn the opportunity to move into the second phase of the program called Next Steps, which provides educational support, job training programs, employment partnership referrals and housing resources. Over 80% of individuals who start the program move into the Next Steps phase.
Willie told PHL17, “They don't only just put you in a situation where you can get your GED or a job; they put you in situations in positions where you can get a career.”
Since 2007, Back on My Feet members say they’ve helped more than 6,000 people and over 4,000 of those people have achieved housing or employment.
Willie says the shoes and the Back on My Feet shirt gives him a sense of identity he thought he lost years ago. He says people around the city see him as a runner, and not an ex-felon, a drug addict, nor as a homeless man. Willie also says the program has helped him repair family ties that he thought were beyond repair. Mewborn explained, “I kept saying, ‘I want to get my mom back, and my sisters back and my brothers back.’ But when I get around them they say, ‘We got our brother back!’ And my mom says, ‘That's my son,’ you know? And she used to say it with shame, and being ashamed. And now she says it with pride and dignity.”
In September, willie will start a job with Furnishing a Future, which is a workforce development program where he’ll learn to build furniture, while developing skills that can lead to a living wage.
“It has changed my whole perspective about life and my whole persona of myself,” said Mewborn.
For more on Back on My Feet, click here!