New Muslim Women’s Shelter Opens in Baltimore
Muslimat Al-Nisaa Fulfills Pledge to Community, Home Includes Self-Sufficiency Training
By: Farkhunda Ali
An idea, which was originally born of necessity almost five years ago, has now become a reality.
She traveled throughout the Masajid, Islamic Centers, and Muslim organizations in the tri-state DC Metropolitan Area getting people to understand and support her project.
She said she does not want to remember how many times she was turned down. The lesson she learned is to always stick to the plan, ask for Allah’s guidance, and be persistent in a mission.
That is exactly what she did. She came up with the idea five years ago. She put her idea into a written proposal three years ago. Since then she’s been networking with Muslims to get their financial support, volunteers, and professionals to help her establish a full-fledged Islamically conducive Muslim shelter, a home for the homeless Muslim women and children.
Now, her vision has been fulfilled.
After becoming aware that homelessness exists in the Muslim community and is as serious of a problem as in other faiths, the DC Muslims raised their support for this cause, therefore enabling her to fulfill her life-long dream. Asma Hanif, director of the Baltimore-based Muslimat Al-Nisaa Health, Education, Social, and Shelter Services held an open house for its first Muslim Women’s Center (MWC) recently opened in the heart of Baltimore.
The shelter was given the name MWC because it provides home-economics training, Islamic education, vocational/occupational training, resources to GED and Diploma programs, access to information for further education, three warm meals, laundry area, clothing, counseling, library, health and nutrition counseling, medical services and a warm clean place to sleep.
Muslimat Al-Nisaa always provided shelter services, but this is the first time they’ve secured a physical location to house homeless women in one home.
“It is not just a place for them to sleep comfortably. Our goal is to get them prepared to stand up on their own feet,” said Hanif.
MWC is a three-level house with a huge backyard and a fenced-inn front yard. The seven bedrooms, five bathrooms along with meeting and dining areas with fully equipped kitchen allow space for 15-25 women depending on the size of their families. The shelter welcomes any Muslim woman and her children from anywhere in the US.
MWC only takes in women who have made an agreement to take advantage of the various trainings offered by the program to become self-reliable. While gaining from the resources of the shelter, these residents are also expected to give back to the community in some way. For example, some residents have already assisted Hanif in taking care of a disabled Muslim in the community. This MWC sits in close proximity to a neighborhood Masjid. Within a mile radius, every other home is owned by a Muslim family, rented by Muslims, or advertised for sale by Muslim landlords.
“The set up is really nice. It is a genuine place protecting the dignity of the Muslim woman,” said Khalid Karimullah, secretary of the Board of Directors at the Muslim Community Center (MCC) in Silver Spring, Maryland. “They are not just providing shelter to waste time, they are actually getting these sisters to pursue a plan-a life plan,” he added.
Karimullah promised his support to the shelter. He also plans on making more Muslim leaders aware about this project to gain additional support. “This is a responsibility of the Muslims by birth to support the converted Muslims,” he said. Karimullah believes that new Muslims need the help of other Muslims because of the isolation they face by accepting Islam. “Our Muslim women may have lost jobs or become victims of domestic violence after accepting Islam. It is our obligation to protect them,” said Karimullah.
In order to sign the contract for a five-year lease agreement, some noble Muslim men contributed financially to ensure the shelter will have monthly allowance to pay its expenses. The donations helped significantly. However, the shelter relies on regular monthly pledges.
The MWC has individuals and organizations that are helping with the monthly operational costs of the shelter. Other organizations and individuals are providing manpower, training programs, counseling, and other resources.
Hanif gets canned goods from local food pantries. Several Masajid in Maryland have donated money, clothing, computers for the educational and job trainings, and food for the daily operation of the MWC.
“There may be other organizations in Baltimore providing shelter, however, without a comprehensive program, after 30-90 days, they will either turn them [homeless women] back onto the streets or they will end up at Muslimat Al-Nisaa’s doorsteps,” said Faiza Muhammad, MWC director.
These professionals in the medical, business, educational, social service, and health field are working together to help these women reach self-sufficiency within six moths. The shelter provides training for CPR, childcare provider, nursing assistant, basic computer education, GED programs, high school diploma, and employment opportunities within Muslim owned businesses.
“Our goal is for everyone to have a plan. If not, we will help them develop one,” added Muhammad.
“It is a beautiful haven for homeless Muslimat, a place they can find a roof over their head, a place they can keep their dignity and practiced their Islam while being homeless. It is a place where these sisters can transition to a state of independence through training, coaching, and career counseling,” said Ayman Nassar, member of the Shura at Dar Al-Taqwa in Ellicott City, Maryland. Nassar also serves on the Community Affairs Liaison.
Nassar said Muslims need to first start making regular zakat payments where it is most needed. Second, he added that Muslims can also help by providing their professional expertise to the residents of the shelter. His plan is to get more Muslims’ support either financially or by their time for this project.
“In my opinion, the reality is that anyone can provide shelter, but the restoration of self-esteem, the instillation of self-worth is the real challenge. Inshallah Muslimat Al-Nisaa’s programs, with the help of the community, will strive to meet those challenges,” said Hanif.
Their future plan is to raise enough funds to purchase the current property being leased for the shelter.
To mention a few, ICM, ADAMS, ISWA, CAIR, CCMO, ISNA, Islamic Relief, PGMA, Peaceful Families Project, Diamond Security, and Al Maghrib Institute. For more information, please visit www.mnisaa.org.
Source: Muslim Link