Back On My Feet Combats Homelessness Through Running

Katy Sherratt first heard about Back on My Feet while she was leading projects in Accenture Strategy’s practice in New York City. A representative had come in looking for help developing the nonprofit’s growth strategy.

Sherratt’s interest was piqued. How does running help the homeless? Barely three months removed from a second hip surgery, Sherratt laced up her shoes the next morning and joined one of Back on My Feet’s morning runs. Sherratt walked with a woman named Sandra, learning about her story along the way.

As the two approached the finish, volunteers and other members began cheering on Sandra. She began standing a little taller. Walking with more purpose. A smile grew on her face.

“As she finished she said ‘No one’s ever believed in me the way you all believed in me,’” Sherratt recalled. “And that’s when I got it. What we take for granted—family, support systems—a lot of these folks have never had or have lost and that’s why they are where they are.

“You empower them, inspire them and give them this value. Everybody is looking for some form of validation.”

Founded in 2007, Back on My Feet uses running as a catalyst to build community and empower individuals experiencing homelessness and fighting addiction. The national nonprofit has 13 chapters across the United States including New York City, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Chicago and Denver, and has raised more than $50 million since its inception.

Back on My Feet has helped more than 7,000 individuals by obtaining more than 6,500 jobs and homes while engaging more than 150,000 volunteers and supporters who have run nearly 1 million combined miles. Every $1 invested in the nonprofit returns nearly $2.50 to the local community through economic output and cost saving.

Sherratt joined Back on My Feet in 2012 as chief operations officer; she was promoted to CEO in 2015. During her tenure, the nonprofit has launched in three major cities and increased revenues by 30%.

The nonprofit is currently in talks with at least one major foundation to expand into 30 cities by 2023 (a $5 million proposal), Sherratt said. Back on My Feet also has a four-year strategic plan to open chapters in another five cities without some form of investment.

While the organization’s growth strategy is primarily focused on the United States—there’s huge growth potential in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, according to Sherratt—she isn’t ruling out international expansion. She said there’s interest in potential chapters in London and Canada.

“We’ve got a model that works and it’s very easy for us to replicate,” she said. “Being in 30 cities within the next five years is absolutely on the agenda with international expansion included in that.”

NOTE: First appeared on Forbes SportsMoney

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