Sean Ryon, Thomas Shomaker

How Running Got 6,000 Homeless People Back on Their Feet

This nonprofit's novel approach to empowering the homeless starts with a simple premise: putting one foot in front of the other.

Hector Torres’s world was shattered when he learned his 29-year-old son had died. The former Marine and avid runner was driving home from work when he fell asleep at the wheel and crashed. The loss sent Hector into a grief spiral as he abandoned his life as a truck driver in Connecticut to wander the streets of New York City without a home.

“In the process of losing my son, I lost reality,” Torres says. “For about a month, I was wandering the city not knowing where I was at.”

Ten months later, Torres began to piece his life back together. While residing in the New York City Rescue Mission, Torres became a member of Back on My Feet, a nonprofit that combats homelessness through running programs. Founded in 2007, the organization works with shelters in 12 cities nationwide to recruit members interested in changing their lives for the better. Teams meet three times a week at 5:45 a.m., and members who maintain at least a 90 percent attendance record for the first 30 days become eligible for job training, financial aid and other life-building opportunities.

“Nobody runs alone,” says executive director Terence Gerchberg. “The point of this group is not to outrun somebody; it’s to uplift somebody. It’s meeting people where they are.”

Watch the video above to see how running transformed Torres’s life.