Pay it Forward: Homeless tai chi

Pay it Forward: Homeless Tai Chi (Photo: KUTV)

(KUTV) A Utah couple has a unique approach to helping the homeless population in Utah--tai chi.

Bernard and Marita Hart started the group Understanding Us, and host free tai chi classes outside the Salt Lake City Public Library on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday mornings at 9 a.m..

They've been offering the service since October of last year.

"We've been having 34, 35, 40 people a day," said Bernard Hart, also known as Bernie.

The Harts worked with children who have autism, and found that tai chi could help calm their nerves.

So they decided to try the practice with the homeless population "to see if the ideas could get people comfortable, feeling good about themselves, thinking about their day in a different way," according to Bernie Hart.

And for those who attend the free tai chi sessions, it seems to be working.

"I feel relaxed. It takes you to a whole other realm of comfort," said Leroy, who is homeless and has attended the class for about six months.

People from all walks of life are welcome to join the class, which is starting to form its own little community.

"At first you're a little bit apprehensive," said Carl, who used to be homeless. "But once you get involved with the rest of them, you feel included."

The Harts and their volunteers also feed participants coffee and burritos before class, and send them away with a couple of dollars.

"We feel good being here," said Bernie.

Mountain America Credit Union donated $500 to help Understanding Us continue its efforts. They hope to expand their efforts with more programs and partnerships.

For more information on Understanding Us, or if you want to help out, you can visit their website or Facebook page.