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10/10/08

New Muslim Women’s Shelter Opens in Baltimore


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.

If anyone is interested in contributing to this project, please contact Asma Hanif at (410) 466-8686 or send donations directly to PO Box 31529, Gwynn Oak, MD 21027.

12 comments:

Salimah said...

Salaams. This is awesome. Where I am, we don't seem to have this problem with out muslim community alhumdulillah, but I'm so happy to see that where there is that problem, there is a sister who was willing to step-up and do what was needed. May Allah bless her for her awesome efforts insha allah.

Yasmin said...

Masha'Allah, it was so wonderful reading this. It actually brought tears o my eyes to know that they are Muslim women who are homeless or struggling out there. It really makes you appreciate the things you have in life and be grateful to Allah SWT. May Allah reward her for her amazing actions.

Cecilia said...

hi there! I would like to thank you for your comments on my blog, I needed them. =) I would also say that this is a very good initiative, I mean to start a home less shelter.

muslimahmediawatch.org said...

Salam!!!

Can you publish a link to this so I can include the story in our Friday links?

Habayeb said...

Masha'allah! this is awesome!

muslimahh said...

Very cool, thanks for sharing!

hijabee said...

Salimah,
Yes it is great that someone is looking out for homeless muslimas out there. Great initiative of the sister.

Yasmin,
Yes, it makes you appreciate the fact that you have a house to go to and food everyday.

Cecilia,
You are very welcome. Hang in there.

muslimahmediawatch,
This was an article on the muslim link paper.You can find it at www.muslimlinkpaper.com

habayeb,
Yes indeed, it is.

muslimahh,
you are welcome.

Candide said...

This is wonderful! It is sad to think that in a country that has so much, women and children could be homeless but it is truely uplifting to know that there are people willing and able to step and help.

sata said...

salam sister,
i just discovered your blog,i mean totally random and i love it machaAllah!!!
A shelter for homeless muslimah this is a great story and thank you so much for letting us know about it,oh ya Allah!!!i live in the midwest and there is a dire need.
did i say i love your love?
take care,salam oukhti

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Anonymous said...

As Salaamu Alaikum Wa RahmatAllahi Wa Barakatahu

I just came across this blog and I mustsay from experience, that not all is as it seems. I was in this shelter last year and was thrown out simply because i asked why there was no salat being performed, I asked where were the programs that was supposed to assost the sisters and mainly because I called the food pantry (Muslim ran) forfood as there was only frezer burned food in the freezer. I am notthe only one, as ther were many , as a matter of fact all but 1 of the sisters who were housed there were put out, except for the one who went out with them (those who ran the shelter) and asked for donations, as she was the one who caue all the fitnah . When Muslims are giving there money, they need to check up on the businesses that are claiming to help ask to see records, see what is the success rate, how many gt jobs, how many received their diploma etc.? More importantly, where are these places that were supposed to offer these things, I asked too many questions and they kept asking me how did I know the Muslims in the ummah of Baltimore, since I was from D.C.. It was only Bi'ithnillah. I am certain that there are shelters who are providing the service they prmised, but the 2 that I was in, definitely were not, wallahi. Allah swt sees the black ant on the black stone in the dark of night. May Allah swt help all the sisters who need help and uncover and oust falsehood, ameen. ma salam