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Helping homeless 'switch gears' with a free bike

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Photo courtesy of "On My Own 2 Feet & Wheels" Photo courtesy of "On My Own 2 Feet & Wheels"
CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -

It’s a program called ‘On My Own 2 Feet & Wheels,’ and its goal is to do just that. The hope to lift up the homeless and encourage them to live a healthy lifestyle.

In the program's first year they gave out free shoes, this year they expanded, offering free bicycles. In return, they hope participants will become more independent, find a job, and a place to live.

More than 4,000 people experience homelessness each year in Chattanooga, On My Own 2 Feet & Wheels, believes that running and biking can help people build self-confidence and skills that can transfer into other areas of their lives.

This week a group of 11 put on their helmets and hopped on their new wheels. They're about to embark on a long journey across town, the reward is a brand new bike. It's a nice trade off, but for them it means a lot more.

"It started about six years ago I had an inflammable in my stomach and I had like $10,000 but I needed $83,000,” Katrina Benn explained.

It's just one of the stories those who live on the streets can relate to. Benn and her fellow riders are part of a new program that aims to be a light during life's darkest times.

"We want to help them get back on their own two feet. So whatever direction that may take, that's what we want to do to help,” said Catherine Crawley with On My Own 2 Feet & Wheels.

On My Own 2 Feet & Wheels gave each participant a brand new mountain bike. However, they had to earn it. They're required to complete an eight week course in bike safety and maintenance. They take those skills to the streets, this time for a 15 mile bike ride. It's an investment that's more than just a hand out.

"Keeping me out of trouble too. This program means a lot more to me than just the bike, it's good people and I love meeting new people," said Douglas Sutton.

Who knew that hope could come from two wheels? 

It’s more than just a mode of transportation. For Katrina it's a new beginning.

"It’s up hill from here for me. And, I get my health back and go back to work. I come out with more information than when I came in. It's almost like a second chance for me,” Benn said.

The organization, that is only about a year old has already hit big milestones, last year they won ‘Most Outstanding New Running Program’ by the Road Runners Club of America.

To find out how you can volunteer, visit their website.

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