Homeless people spend so much of their days walking that foot-related health problems rank among their chief complaints, advocates say.
And all that time spent hoofing it from one service to another means less time spent on searching for jobs or housing.
That's why the Chattanooga Community Kitchen and Outdoor Chattanooga teamed up to give the homeless some pedal power.
"A bicycle is just a very efficient means of transportation," said Philip Pugliese, bicycle coordinator for Outdoor Chattanooga. "If it can enable someone to make it to another business, another place of employment, or another service, that can help them better themselves."
Homeless advocates long have said many homeless people spend all day walking from one kitchen to another just so they can be sure to get enough food. Diverting from a kitchen stop to a job interview perhaps would mean the person would go hungry.
"It's easy to figure that many homeless people walk eight to 12 miles a day," said Jans Christiansen, who works at the Chattanooga Community Kitchen. "That's the reason we offer foot-care as a part of our services."
Under the new program, the Community Kitchen will evaluate and approve applications for bicycles. Outdoor Chattanooga will collect the bikes, provide training and give a helmet and a bike lock to the homeless person.
Bikes will come from donations from the public and will be repaired with money from Mayor Ron Littlefield's Art of Change program, Mr. Pugliese said.
"Ideally, we'd like to have about 50 to get the program started and working," he said, adding that so far organizers have collected about seven bikes.
Bikes don't have to be expensive, but they shouldn't require major overhauls, the men said.
WANT TO HELP?
Contact Outdoor Chattanooga to make a donation of a bicycle for a homeless person: 423-643-6888 or visit www.outdoorchattanooga.com.
"We figure that just about everyone has a bike in their garage that they aren't using," Mr. Christiansen said. "This is a way to use that bike in a positive way."
Said Mr. Pugliese: "I'd like to see everyone out riding their bikes as a means of transportation, but if they aren't using them, this is a good use."