How Running is Helping the Homeless One Step at a Time [Q&A]

Katy Sherratt is the CEO of Back on My Feet, a nonprofit that uses running as a vehicle for self-improvement.

Apr 28, 2016
Member of Back on My Feet running

Back on My Feet empowers the homeless through running (Courtesy of Back on My Feet)

It’s been said again and again by athletes, actors, artists, musicians, and authors - “anything is possible if you just believe.” Yes, it’s usually true that if you set your mind to something, you can achieve it. But first and foremost, you have to believe in yourself - and that’s often the hardest part.

No one understands this better than Katy Sherratt. As CEO of Back on My Feet, Katy oversees the growth and development of a nonprofit that puts believing at the beginning. By using running as a means to develop self-esteem, restore confidence, and build strength, Back on My Feet is providing the homeless with essential tools to face the road ahead.

In this week’s 10 Good Questions, Katy explains how her organization uses running as a building block to a better life.

1. What is your organization’s mission?

Back on My Feet is a national non-profit organization that combats homelessness through the power of running, community support and essential employment and housing resources. We currently operate in 11 major U.S. cities coast-to-coast. Later this year, we will open our 12th chapter in San Francisco! Our unique running-based model demonstrates that if you first restore confidence, strength, and self-esteem, individuals are better equipped to tackle the road ahead and move toward jobs, homes, and new lives.

2. What makes you guys different from the rest?

Other nonprofit organizations dedicated to helping homeless individuals tend to focus solely on finding people employment or housing, but how are you ever supposed to believe in yourself enough to make the transition out of homelessness and stay there?

Back on My Feet's programmatic approach first brings individuals from the community together with individuals experiencing homelessness. It starts very simply with a one foot in front of the other, running as a group three times a week in the early mornings – no-one running alone. This gives our members a sense of community, support and hope for the future, which grows into a belief that anything is possible.

3. What three words describe your organization?

Dedicated, accountable and determined.

Katy Sherratt is the CEO of Back on My Feet

Katy Sherratt is the passionate CEO of Back on My Feet (Courtesy of Back on My Feet)

4. What inspires you?

Our members and our volunteers. Our members for their sheer dedication to the program – despite everything they’ve been through. This is not a handout, but a hand up and every one of them works hard to achieve their dreams. Our volunteers – because without them we are nothing. They give their time, energy and resources to make our organization and our members flourish. Their passion is constantly inspiring.

5. Who's your favorite good doer figure?

I can only have one?? Sorry, but it’s the whole of the BoMF Staff! Every single one of our staff is so dedicated to our members. They work extremely hard. Probably harder than most would ever think when you hear the word ‘nonprofit,’ but trust me this isn’t a job to us, this is a passion and a mission so it never stops. We’re definitely more of a ‘for purpose’ organization than traditional nonprofits and won’t quit until we completely revolutionize the way society approaches homelessness.

6. What is the best part about your job?

Without a doubt seeing the members succeed. Their faces as they cross the finish line of their first race, their excitement when they get that first job with one of our employment partners and their joy at moving into their own place. I also love the variety of people I get to work with – staff, members, donors, senior business leaders on our Board, volunteers and other supporters. We work with some many different corporations (large corporations like Marriott and AT&T to smaller more local based restaurants and companies).

7. How do you measure success within your organization?

There are multiple measures of success for Back on My Feet. To begin, we have served more than 5,500 individuals experiencing or at risk of homelessness. Our members have run a collective 500,000 miles and obtained more than 3,500 jobs and homes. What’s more, every $1 invested in Back on My Feet returns nearly $2.50 to the local community through increased economic output from employment and reduction in costs for shelter, medical services, incarceration, and drug and alcohol treatment.

Back on my Feet member

Back on My Feet focuses on creating community, generating support and building hope. (Courtesy of Back on My Feet)

8. Facebook or Twitter?

You can check us out on Facebook and Twitter.  We are constantly updating people on the latest runs they can join, successes, and how to get involved.

9. What do you want Goodnet users to know about your organization?

It only takes one run to feel the power of what we do. You come away from a run with our members feeling changed too - your day is just so much brighter. You feel energized. Whether you join us for a morning run, fundraise for us, support our members in job skills training, every little bit helps. It takes a village to transform a life.

10. How can people get involved?

The easiest way to get involved is to visit www.backonmyfeet.org, look for your local chapter, and start running. You can also run with usrun for usoffer corporate supporthelp employ membersbuy merchandise, or simply donate.

Mirele writes about everything related to doing good, with a particular interest in volunteering and social entrepreneurship, informed by her background in eco tourism.