In 2012, RunningWorks began as a way to use running to reach out to the homeless community and encourage them to rediscover the value of hard work, determination and self-respect.
While running remains central to the organization, RunningWorks has expanded its scope to include the ultimate goal of finding permanent housing for its participants.
“At our core it’s still about the health and wellness component,” said RunningWorks Chief Operating Officer Matt Sharp. “Running and physical fitness, motion and just getting out and building relationships during that time allows us to understand what the needs of these individuals are. Sometimes it’s mental wellness, or finding jobs, or transportation, or even housing.”
RunningWorks’ mission is to empower individuals and families to break cycles of abuse, abandonment, neglect, poverty and homelessness one stride at a time by creating a safe haven for more than 150 men, women, and children served weekly: a team and family where they can learn to trust.
“We continue to provide wraparound services and we continue to provide that team approach,” Sharp said.
Earlier this month, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing Advisory Board released a new report on the county’s emergency shelter system and the solution for housing instability and homelessness is the same: housing that is affordable to individuals and families at all income levels.
“RunningWorks has always been about trying to eradicate homelessness in the population which we participate,” Sharp said. “The last year we entered in partnerships with organizations that could help us house individuals.”
In the last year, RunningWorks has worked to house and provide services for 30 individuals. One partner that helps with housing is Lotus Campaign, a newly formed organization which aims to solve homelessness by engaging the private, for-profit real estate community.
The Lotus Campaign brings together participating landlords and sponsoring organizations like RunningWorks to do what they do best. The landlords provide housing, the organizations provide social services, and the Lotus Campaign provides the economic support to make it happen.
RunningWorks participated in #GivingTuesdayCLT in 2017 and raised over $30,000 to cover transportation costs for its participants.
“We go to so many races and we have to find transportation for our team members,” Sharp said. “We provide bus passes and that’s great, but outside of hours, we need to transport our runners. We always had to rent vans or get Ubers or Lyfts.”
For 2018 #GivingTuesdayCLT, RunningWorks had a goal to raise funds for its housing initiative. But, transportation was still a great need.
Mercedes-Benz of South Charlotte stepped up and donated a van to help RunningWorks transport its team members. The organization received the van a few weeks ago.
“It provides more opportunities to transport our team members to different functions and events,” Sharp said. “We got it a couple weeks ago and it’s wrapped in RunningWorks colors. It’s awesome.”Want to get involved with RunningWorks? RunningWorks needs volunteers at the HKB Mother’s Day 5K race on May 12.