Homeless people benefit from group providing bikes and repairs

FORT COLLINS, Colo. -- Every Friday at Sister Mary Alice Murphy Center for Hope, dozens of bikes and their owners line up for free maintenance in Fort Collins.

The bikes belong to area homeless people who are looking for a free tune up. It's exactly what they get. The Murphy Center started fixing broken and worn down bikes in January. In the 10 months following, the program has grown into a sort of bike repair shop, manned by actual bike mechanics.

“It might be someone who comes in with a flat tire," said Chelsey Mandall, Resource Development Director of Homeless Gear. "So, we can work with that. It might be someone who has one that really isn’t working at all.”

In a typical day, the mechanics fix 10 to 15 bikes. Some of the bike owners return every week for maintenance, others bring people they know with bikes. Volunteers believe they can fix any bike ill.

“I found out about the program that they had here," said Scott Ramjoue, who lost his house and has trouble maintaining employment without transportation. "You can do volunteer work at the Murphy’s center … then you’ll earn a bike.”

Ramjoue was equipping his bike with a rack and a bottle holder, all supplied from donations to Murphy Center. Many donations come directly from bike shops in and near Fort Collins.

Bikes come in all sorts of bad shape, but mostly volunteers are fixing broken tires or tubes. Typically more than 50% of work done is on the wheels themselves.

The volunteers want to make sure the bike owners leave with reliable transportation. They also teach basic maintenance to people interested in learning.