A Newark nonprofit will display shoes at the Licking County Courthouse this weekend to represent the number of unsheltered in Licking County.
Between 10 am and 1 pm Saturday on the Newark downtown square, Newark Homeless Outreach and the Licking County chapter of Ohio CAN (Change Addiction Now) will host its annual Steps of Change event. The event serves as a fundraiser and a way to raise awareness of addiction and homelessness.
More:Homelessness appears to be a growing problem in Licking County
According to Newark Homeless Outreach founder Trish Perry, the organization will display around 200 shoes to represent the unsheltered adult population in Licking County. They will also display 187 children’s shoes to represent the number of Newark City Schools students who are considered unsheltered.
She explained the children’s families could be couch surfing, living in cars or living with family members, but don’t have their own specific place.
“It’s sad to hear we have children that have no safe place,” Perry said.
This year’s event will feature a three and one-mile run/walk, speakers, a bounce house, games, music and food.
Perry said this year, the event will have new and different games for kids, a special appearance by SpongeBob between 10:30 am to 12:30 pm, a snowcone machine giving out snowcones, and other vendors.
“The biggest takeaway I want people to look at is the fact that as a city we have a lot of unsheltered people and no shelter for them,” Perry said. “People have vouchers to get housing, but there’s just no housing. There’s no housing in a market where people can make $12-15 an hour and live.”
Perry said the number of overdose victims in Licking County annually is also not going down.
In 2020, Licking County saw a record number of 47 overdose deaths. The number remained the same for 2021.
More:Licking County 2021 drug deaths match record set in 2020
“Fentanyl is killing a whole generation. If we don’t start looking outside the box at avenues such as clean syringe programs, we’ll continue to see people die,” Perry said. “Education is the key to all of it.”
Registration for the three-mile runs costs $35 per person and includes a T-shirt, breakfast and gift for first and second place. Registration for the one-milk memory walk costs $25 per person and includes a T-shirt and breakfast.
To sign up for the run or walk, visit https://runsignup.com/Race/OH/Newark/StepsofChangeStompingStigma.
Newark Homeless Outreach is also accepting donations toward their cause. To make a donation, visit their website.