Non-profit helps homeless get a running start

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by SHANNON MURRAY / KVUE NEWS and Photojournalist CHRIS SHADROCK

Bio | Email | Follow: @ShannonM_KVUE

kvue.com

Posted on December 29, 2013 at 11:57 PM

Updated Monday, Dec 30 at 12:01 AM

AUSTIN -- An Austin group is running for a cause, but it's not your typical charity race, many of the group members are not who you might expect.

As the city sleeps, a group of runners are getting in a morning workout.

After a quick stretch and a prayer some get in their cars and head home ready to start the workday. Not everyone, some of the runners don't have a home to return to. They're staying down the street at the homeless shelter.

"In the beginning, it really is, it's all about the running," said Executive Director Joe Maruchella. "We track mileage, attitude and attendance."

The homeless runners are required to attend 90% of the runs over 30 days, then sights are set on another milestone.

"They start learning about things like resume writing and socialization in the workforce. So they learn about personal finances, they open a checking account, they learn how to budget so when they are in a job they have the tools to sustain themselves," said Maruchella.

This is where corporate partnerships come into play and Back on My Feet helps open the door.

"This is a key step for someone who's been out of the workplace for a long time. Maybe they don't have a recent work history, maybe they have something in their background," Maruchella explained.

The organization started just one year ago on a cold morning in January.

"That is probably my favorite Back on My Feet memory of the year," Maruchella said. "We had close to 200 people on a street corner at 5:30 a.m. on January 27th for an organization that didn't even exist, right? It was our very first day of operation!"

From there the group has seen 44 members get jobs and 12 of them now have a home of their own.

"You never have a testimony unless you had a test," said Deangelo Maupin.

Maupin's test came when his addiction got the best of him, he lost contact with his family and found himself living on the streets.

"Hopeless, I was an alcoholic. I was just, I was in bad shape," he described.

Now he lives in Round Rock with his wife and kids and has a full time job in event services at the Renaissance Austin.

"I'm in awe sometimes when I go home and look around and think of where I used to be and where I'm at now," Maupin said "It reminds me of those days when I didn't know where the next meal was coming from."

Maupin says Back on My Feet changed all of that.

"When you get there all you see is people's shoes, shorts and numbers and everybody is pretty much the same," he said.

He still remembers his first race

"The atmosphere was just, like, electric," he described. "I was just amazed how, I've never done this before but I was in the mix of something that was more bigger than pretty much anything I've done in my life."

Volunteer and run leader David Young has been with the group since the beginning.

"I think I maybe thought I knew what homelessness was. But I didn't know anything," he said.

In fact, on the morning runs it's often hard to tell who's homeless and who's not.

"They want everybody on equal footing, everybody's out there together, everybody's struggling together to get up the hill," Young said.

The dedication these runners put in every week serves as a metaphor for much bigger goals in life.

"Every step you earn, every mile that you run is yours and there are no shortcuts," Maruchella said.

Now Maupin is in seminary school and ready for his next chapter.

"It was an experience that I really can't explain in words. But it was God-sent for me to be here," he said.

The homeless runners earn workout gear and shoes in the beginning as they reach certain mileage. For more information on how to get involved visit the group's website.
 

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