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Charity softball tourney pitches in to help feed the homeless

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Charity softball tournament pitches in to help feed the homeless
WATCH: Charity softball tournament pitches in to help feed the homeless – Aug 28, 2021

The Smash Out Hunger charity baseball tournament started three years ago with friends and supporters gathering to play some softball and to raise some money for the Shelter Nova Scotia’s Adopt-a-Meal program.

After the pandemic forced the tournament to cancel last year, it was back again this summer with 18 teams playing at five diamonds at the Halifax Common, with the goal of raising $5,000 for the Metro Turning Point shelter to provide meals.

“We’re seeing more people accessing services, more people sleeping outside, more people in this situation where it’s hard to make ends meet,” said Julie Slen, Smash Out Hunger organizer and housing support supervisor at Shelter Nova Scotia.

Homelessness has been a major issue in Halifax and has only been amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic. The issue came to a boiling point last week when police and city staff dismantled tents and shelters at homeless encampments across the city, sparking outrage in the community.

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Darlene McIntosh said she was disturbed by the violence in the videos she saw as police clashed with encampment supporters near the old Spring Garden Road Memorial Library on August 18, as temporary shelters and tents were dismantled.

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“It doesn’t make sense to anybody, just let them be, it’s temporary and if you’re going to move (the homeless), you have to shelter them somewhere,” said McIntosh, who has played in the charity tournament each summer.

“I get emotional talking about it and I feel so bad we’re not doing more as a province to help them.”

As a housing support worker, Slen sees the issues of homelessness and food insecurity continuing to get worse. While it’s not an issue that will get solved overnight, the tournament can at least bring in some extra money to help the cause, supporters say.

“Folks are often forced to choose between paying their rent or putting food on the table and that’s if they can even afford a place to live,” said Slen.

“As we are here enjoying the day, I am very aware of the reality that we will face Monday when we go back to work.”

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The Elizabeth Fry Society of Mainland Nova Scotia was playing in the softball tournament. The organization supports women who have been criminalized or marginalized reintegrate into the community, and understands the gravity of homelessness and food insecurity through their daily work.

“I’ve been in this field for about a decade and I’ve never seen the numbers of people who truly have nowhere to go. The shelter beds are full, the food banks are used daily and there is a crisis occurring in our city right now,” said Emma Halpern, the executive director of the Elizabeth Fry Society of Mainland Nova Scotia.

“That’s why we’re here — because we’re not good baseball players, some of us don’t know which direction to swing the bat — but we’re here because it’s a good cause and an opportunity to be a community which is ultimately what we need in this city right now.”

As much as the players were having fun playing ball, it’s clear there’s a housing and homelessness crisis that needs attention, and the ability to use sport to support it was a good way to draw more awareness and funds for the cause.

“This year, we have people from across the spectrum coming and supporting this cause because I think people really know what’s happening in the city,” said Slen.

“And that’s my biggest motivation for making this tournament happen, to get people to understand what the Metro Turning Point is, to understand what Shelter Nova Scotia is all about.”

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