The vast majority of Manatee County residents don't know what it's like to be homeless. A local charity organization is looking to change that.
On Saturday, Turning Points held its sixth annual Walk A Mile In Their Shoes event at LECOM Park. It's the first time the event was held at the historic ballpark.
Organizers say the move from Coquina Beach is perfect, especially since LECOM is right across the street from the organization's offices at the Bill Galvano One Stop Center, where Turning Points offers all kinds of services for the homeless and those at risk of becoming homeless.
About 400 people came out to walk laps around the baseball field for charity. The event required a registration fee, but those proceeds go toward Turning Points' programs for the homeless, said director of development Margi Dawson.
The nonprofit says more than 2,000 children will experience homelessness in Manatee County throughout the year. Most of that comes from entire families that identify as homeless, said Dawson.
"We do this because homelessness with families is still the fastest-growing segment of homelessness," she explained.
Jessica and Lamar Jennings brought their two sons out to the event, which they called "a nice family get-together."
"It's a great event," Jessica said. "Especially because it helps get the homeless off the streets."
Another participant, Emma Tummon, said she's been following Turning Points ever since she wrote a research paper for a class at State College of Florida and discovered some sobering statistics about how prevalent homelessness is in the area.
"I learned that most homeless don't receive help from the government," said Tummon. "Most of the help they get comes from the local level, so that's why I'm out here. It's a good cause and I've made some new friends."
A few players from the Bradenton Marauders joined in on the event and participants received a free ticket to return to a game at LECOM this season.
Registration fees varied from $20 for adults to $10 for kids. There were also rates for families and the ability to sponsor others to join the walk.
Located at 1701 Seventh Ave. W. in Bradenton, Turning Points offers various services for Manatee's homeless such as medical, dental and veterans services. For more information, visit the organization's website at www.tp.manatee.org.