I first met Heather Angel Chandler at Geekdom, the technology incubator located on the ultra hip open-space 11th floor of the Weston Centre in downtown San Antonio, underwritten by Rackspace Hosting co-founders Graham Weston and Pat Condon. You have to experience Geekdom to understand it. It's a hi tech magnet with a big gravitational pull attracting young Internet entrepreneurs near and far.
Chandler is a San Antonio native and the owner of startup Innovative Multimedia Group, a full-service video production and web development company. She's trying to build a company that turns the services of many of these young programmers and designers into a business. Prior to founding IMG five years ago, she worked as an award-winning television news reporter and anchor at stations in Beaumont, Las Vegas, and San Antonio.
We're pleased to welcome her to The Rivard Report with her first multimedia story, one that focuses on a volunteer initiative at the Haven for Hope that ought to make all of us feel a little better about the city we call home. --Robert Rivard
It’s 8 a.m. on a chilly February Wednesday morning in San Antonio. Drivers hurry along Interstate 10 near North Frio Street-- talking on their cell phones, sipping their lattes. The commuters don’t seem to notice the mass of bodies forming in the adjacent Garcia Park. Despite the soggy weather conditions, the group of men and women has gathered to stretch before a round of exercise. As it happens, they are members of San Antonio’s homeless community. Their ranks include recovering drug addicts, ex-cons, former prostitutes, people with tough luck stories who now share a common desire. They want to heal and start anew.
The group is part of a volunteer 5k training program called Street2Feet. They train at Garcia Park at 1200 N. Frio every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday morning. Elizabeth Rosenblum co-founded Street2Feet with her friend Meg Cullip four years ago. Street2Feet is unique to San Antonio, but Rosenblum says she and Cullip were inspired by a national program called Back on my Feet. Rosenblum says when it comes to tackling our city’s homeless problem, teaching them to jog typically does not come to mind.
“In its heart it’s really just a wellness program encouraging people to build skills for a successful life,” says Rosenblum.
Prior to co-founding Street2Feet, Rosemblum worked for nearly a decade at San Antonio's Laurel Ridge Treatment Center, helping people with psychiatric disorders recover through therapeutic recreation. She says creating Street2Feet was the natural next step for her.
Rosemblum has teamed up with SAMMinistries and Haven for Hope as a way to help homeless people build skills like self-discipline, goal-setting, and self-confidence.
“I can feel the difference mentally, spiritually, and physically,” says Khrystl Blakeley.
Blakeley is a recovering crack addict in Haven for Hope’s recovery program. She has taken part in the Street2Feet program only a few times, but she is already noticing a difference.
“All the drugs have done so much damage to my body, but now I feel stronger and like I’m healing inside,” says Blakeley. “The days that I walk I feel like my mind is clearer and while I’m here at the park I talk to God. It’s spiritual.”
Rosenblum says the goal is for Street2Feet participants to walk or jog 30 miles per week. If they do, they are able to earn rewards like bus passes.
“Some people say the homeless are just coming out here to get free bus passes. Maybe that’s true at first, but once they experience how much better they feel once they are physically fit, they stay in the program because of that,” says Rosenblum.
Ralph Wooster says he’s a long-time Street2Feet participant and the physical activity has helped his health improve dramatically.
"I had type 2 diabetes and because I walk 30 miles a week I don’t have diabetes anymore,” says Wooster.
Despite being disabled and using a walker to get around, Wooster completed the 2012 Toyota Street2Feet 5k that was held February 15 in downtown San Antonio. It took him about an hour to finish the 5 kilometer race. Wooster says it wasn’t about coming in first--but about setting a goal for himself and accomplishing it.
“It hurt towards the end but it felt good to finish”, says Wooster. “I’m just taking it one step at a time. After I leave Haven for Hope, I’m going to find a home and stay clean and sober.”
Danny Pucket assisted with video production of this story.