Brian Mingo drifted into Dallas in November 2019, after a drug-fueled binge of partying at casinos and strip clubs. He’d been a long-haul trucker and had enrolled in truck driving school because he wanted to explore the world. After mastering the 18-wheeler’s manual transmission and the rigors of team driving — where one partner sleeps as the other drives — he started rolling across the Lower Forty-Eight. But life on the road led him to exploring other lifestyles. As a person of faith, Brian wasn’t accustomed to the vulgar language, drinking, and forms of entertainment his fellow drivers used. His descent into drugs left him destitute, desperate, and homeless.
Brian’s life hadn’t always been like this. When he was a young man in Louisiana, his parents pushed him to accept a scholarship to art school, but he decided to jump on a football scholarship instead. A knee injury ended his college career as a running back. Devastation followed: an addiction to crack cocaine, divorce, and unemployment. Brian’s lowest point came when, to pay for his drug habit, he stole cherished jewelry from his mother.
“It was a ring my dad gave her,” Brian says. “Every time she looked at it, it reminded her of him.”
On that fall night in 2019, Brian knew he’d had enough — but he didn’t know where to turn. Desperate for help, he found a pay phone. “I had a couple of numbers,” Brian says. “One was a suicide hotline. The other was disconnected, and the third was a recording, telling me to leave a message.”
The last number Brian called was Dallas LIFE, a nonprofit that helps individuals experiencing homelessness find a path to recovery and self-sufficiency. Brian was told Dallas LIFE would be open for another hour that day. He was four miles away and didn’t know his surroundings, but he hung up the phone and got moving, eager to find his way.
After being welcomed at Dallas LIFE, Brian discovered Back on My Feet, a nonprofit supported by Stand Together Foundation that combats homelessness through running and essential employment resources. With their help, Brian laced up new running sneakers and pounded out miles on the Dallas pavement. One mile became two, then three.
Because of Back on My Feet, Brian no longer felt so alone. He became part of a team and a member of a thriving running community. Back on my Feet’s staff and volunteers helped Brian discover a new belief in himself, and for the first time in a long while, he was a vital part of a group dedicated to promoting positive change. His self-confidence grew as he ran further and further from the world he worked so hard to leave behind when he first came to Dallas.
Armed with his newfound confidence, Brian worked with Back on My Feet to map out a plan to become a productive and working citizen. The organization helped him find secure housing and employment. And with all this came something even more crucial: Brian found himself.
Brian started driving long-haul routes again, piloting America’s highways with cargo crucial for Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic, like paper towels and hand sanitizer. Even though the pandemic has compelled the country to shelter in place for months, Brian was able to find a way to help others — and to heal himself — on the country’s open roads.
Yet Brian longed to be of even greater service as the pandemic took its toll. He created a Facebook page to ease hearts, minds, and souls, posting inspirational messages of faith from the cab of his truck. He’s kept up the practice from Maine to California.
“Hopefully I can bring a word of encouragement and hope,” Brian says. “Everyone is in despair, and I have feelings for what they’re going through.”
For those who have struggled with drug addiction and homelessness, Brian is an inspiration. Through his own fortitude and with help from Back on My Feet, he covered the distance between addiction and recovery, homelessness and service. He discovered that we can triumph, no matter the circumstance, when we run together.
Photo description: Back on My Feet members huddle before their morning run.
Photo credit: Erica Baker