by Lauren Lustgarten
About 50 teams consisting of over 200 players and volunteers from around the state gathered on Main Street in New Britain on Saturday with one common goal in mind: to end homelessness.
In the fifth annual Hoops for Homeless tournament, Main Street got shut down, handmade basketball courts were created with chalk, portable basketball hoops were set up and the young and the old came together to play for a cause.
“I wish we could do it in every town in Connecticut, but at least we started the idea here in New Britain,” said event co-chair, researcher at the Institute of Municipal Policy and Research and Central Connecticut State University assistant professor of teacher education, Jacob Werblow.
“This is the city where our university is, so we’re grateful for the CCSU athletics being involved and the men and women’s basketball players being the referees and being there all day. It is a wonderful event,” said Werblow.
While the specific number is not yet available for how much was made at this years’ event, about $50,000 has been raised since the event started five years ago, according to Werblow.
“We had some of our volunteers, who are students at CCSU, know family and friends who are at risk of losing their homes. I mean, even during the event, there was counseling and some sort of advising going on between some of the providers in the community,” said Werblow.
Werblow explained that citizens have to be honest in realizing that they create and live in these stigmas, in saying one town is worse than another or one town is better.
“This is sort of inherent in our communities from being a child and I think, unfortunately, many students spend four years at CCSU, graduate and never really have spent time downtown, so they just carry those biases with them,” said Werblow. “So, if nothing else, just bringing people with them to our side of the community and to our city can be a very transformative experience, even though it is a very simple thing.”
The local programs that are supported by this year’s Hoops for Homeless tournament are The Boys and Girls Club of New Britain, the Consolidated School District of New Britain, The Friendship Service Center of New Britain and Prudence Crandall Center.
“Not only is the goal of this event to raise money, but it is also humanize the issue of homelessness and to raise awareness,” said Werblow. “It influences more people than many of us think.”