People across the city hit the streets several times a week to participate in the On My Feet program. (ABC Radio Perth: Gian De Poloni)
People sleeping rough across Perth are being given running shoes as part of a mission to engage them in regular exercise.
Five hundred gift boxes containing shorts, shirts, hats and donated shoes will be handed out to people around the city who are homeless or at risk of being homeless.
The shoe drive is being run by the West Australian fitness group On My Feet.
Its founder, Keegan Crage, said the overall aim was to use exercise as a means to get homeless people into the workforce.
Keegan Crage (right) launched On My Feet in 2014. It will hand out 500 exercise gear gift boxes this month. (ABC Radio Perth: Gian De Poloni)
“Aside from the obvious physical benefits, exercise has a tremendous ability to not only deal with mental health issues but also create a sense of community for those who are feeling isolated,” he said.
“It has the ability to give them confidence, it has the ability to demonstrate attributes such as perseverance, goal setting, commitment, resilience and a positive attitude.
“Those that participate are then able to be presented to potential employers who are looking for those attitudes.”
As part of the program, hundreds of people meet several times a week across the metropolitan area to participate in fitness regimes that include walking, running and resistance stretching routines.
“We believe in each of these individuals and we want to give them an entry point into exercise,” Mr Crage said.
“We recognise that it is difficult when they have nothing to be able to turn up and join the group.”
Jason has been exercising with the group for three months and says he’s made great friends. (ABC Radio Perth: Gian De Poloni)
Running down life’s hurdles
Jason, 52, has been walking and running around Fremantle with a group of about 30 people for the past three months.
He is temporarily living with a friend while dealing with the fallout of a divorce.
He said the friends he had made through the On My Feet exercise group have helped him through it.
“I’ve met a great bunch of people,” he said.
“We all have different stories and different hurdles we have to overcome.
“I love the exercise but it’s just the companionship and knowing that there are people out there that care and want to see people less fortunate be well off as well — physically and emotionally.”
Once participants have run for at least a month, they will receive new shoes. (Supplied: Keegan Crage)
Exercise supporting those most at risk
Students from Notre Dame University also attend the meet-ups in Fremantle as part of their health and physical education studies.
Ashley Barron said she had built bonds with people she might otherwise have been apprehensive to approach.
“I’ve really enjoyed getting to know all people from all walks of life — people that I may not have come across if I wasn’t part of this program,” she said.
“I’ve noticed people’s attitudes change day to day coming along, mental health-wise.
“Obviously your endorphins are increased chemically but [exercise does] great things physically as well.
“I’ve just found you’ve got a lot of brighter people after having a bit of a walk, having a coffee and a chat.”
The gift boxes will be officially launched at the Homeless Connect Perth event on November 14.
The gift boxes have been prepared by Year 10 students at St Hilda’s Anglican School for Girls. (ABC Radio Perth: Gian De Poloni)