Rockingham homeless helped by On My Feet running program


Jason Welch, Lauren O’Dea, Steven Micale, Meg Nielsen, John Nielsen, (Front L-R) Jade Yearsley, Edwin Bagnall, Trish Chesters and Nicola Reid.
Jason Welch, Lauren O’Dea, Steven Micale, Meg Nielsen, John Nielsen, (Front L-R) Jade Yearsley, Edwin Bagnall, Trish Chesters and Nicola Reid.

A NEWLY launched support group in Rockingham is hoping to help homeless and disadvantaged groups hit the ground running.

On My Feet, a program that uses running to empower participants, only started in March but volunteers Trish Chesters and John Nielsen said the program continues to go from strength to strength.

“I really think we always throw money at things and money doesn’t always work,” Ms Chesters said.

“If you empower people to have belief within themselves, they can achieve something, that’s what running does.

“We don’t expect people to be able to run straight away, so we start off with a walk/run program so we cater to different needs.

“Running takes hard work, dedication and a continual learning curve, so you can give that to homeless people and get them to want to strive for something, to want to do something well and then we reward them along the way.”

Runners progress from a second hand pair of shoes and an On My Feet t-shirt through to a brand new pair of runners after attending 90 per cent of session over three months.

Also after three months, On My Feet, partnered with St John’s Ambulance and Coles, begins to offer work experience and training for members.

“One of the benefits of On My Feet that comes through in terms of the work opportunities is if they can demonstrate commitment to a program like this, then they can go to a potential employer and say ‘well I’ve got this track record’,” Mr Nielsen said.

“Of course we can provide records of the commitment and references for job applications.”

Not only does it bring success off the track, but on it as well with three members of the Perth On My Feet set to take part in the Melbourne Marathon in October, with one of the runners also taking on a leadership role within the program.

Ms Chesters said that besides participants becoming fitter, they also became happier.

“We find it gives people a sense of community because homeless people, people don’t look them in the eye… we look them in the eye, remember their names, talk to them, they feel a part of the group which they don’t get when they’re homeless,” she said.

“It really gives them that sense of wellbeing and happiness.”

However, the group is not just available to those who are homeless with Mr Nielsen saying they will give help to anyone who pops down.

“We’re always happy to have more participants and more volunteer runners, the more the merrier,” he said.

“We’re available for other service providers… long term unemployed, or maybe you want to connect more socially – they can join in with us, it’s not just for homeless people, it’s for anyone in a disadvantaged situation or needs some social support.”

The On My Feet Rockingham group meets every Monday from 5pm and Wednesday and Friday from 5.30pm at Rockingham Foreshore at Churchill Park.

For more information head to onmyfeet.org.au.