LEE’S SUMMIT, Mo. — They could be any guys at the gym. Jumping up and pumping up. Nothing hints of where they’ve been. Down and out.
Joey Garett was living in his car, drunk, down and out.
“I can’t even picture myself being like that anymore,” he said.
Not since Kar Woo found him on the streets a few years ago. He finds other homeless people in his “Be the Change” van. On this day, the van is parked at a gym appropriately named “Life Transformations” in Lee’s Summit.
Woo has brought a group of formerly homeless men there to exercise. They’re men he’s steering to housing and jobs, too. Woo thinks fitness is a huge factor in the men getting themselves permanently off the streets.
“Exercise naturally lends itself to say I have to have a regimen,” Woo said. “I have discipline. I have to be goal-oriented. So those help us.”
There’s also that euphoria from working out. Better than booze.
“I think that’s one of the reasons I’m kind of obsessed with it a little bit,” Garett said. “Traded one thing for another, but this is a healthy thing to do.”
The men work out together three to five times a week.
“In the beginning, we were draggin’ them out,” Woo said. “It was sorta funny. But after three months, they would say ‘let’s go, let’s go, let’s go.'”
And what happens at the gym is uplifting. The men are building not just muscles, but also self-esteem.
“You guys are pros. All right. Nice, nice, nice,” their trainer told them as they worked out.
When the men accomplish goals in the gym, they can see themselves doing other things. Woo found Dillon Pierce in a rescue mission three months ago. And now?
“Working on getting my car and my license back, and I’m going to school the next semester,” said Pierce.
He’s going to college. The men are going from being homeless to finding fitness and wholeness.