The most frequent calls that Muslimaat al Nisa, the women’s shelter in Baltimore, gets are from community members wanting to donate clothes and furniture, says new Executive Director, Ammar Hanif, as he stands in the new house the Muslimaat al Nisa has purchased for a full time office space and health clinic on Liberty Heights Ave, Baltimore.
“Most of the time we don’t need those things,” he relayed to the Muslim Link. “We get way more than we actually need.” What the shelter needs are funds.
Recently the water bill was in the thousands. This is a recurring problem in baltimore City where residents have received high water bills due to new water meters and rates.
Under the banner of Inge Benevolent Ministries, the shelter participated in a fundraising donation drive. Volunteers helped sort and load the donated items. They were delivered to Muslimaat al Nisa organizational partner, Thrift Saver. The thrift store will make a monetary donation of $1000 to the Muslimat Al-Nisaa Shelter & Refugee housing program for every 400 lbs. of donated items through their FunDrive program.
“This way we can turn those donation into actual income for the shelter,” says Hanif.
Commemorating Martin Luther King Day of Service, mini vans lined up in front of the house as suburban Muslim moms unloaded boxes of crockery, clothes and knick knack and college students hauled in boxes of bedding. “I’m not sure if we will make our goal- but we will get close,” he said optimistically.
People donated medical supplies and reams of paper, which can be used at the Healthy Solutions Medical Center, where underprivileged people can access basic healthcare at low or no cost. Asma Hanif, the head of Muslimaat Al Nisa, is a registered nurse.
Muslimaat al Nisa also runs a sports program under the Healthy Solutions Wellness Ministry. Many inner-city children want to play sports and a physical exam comes in between them and an activity that breeds empathy, develops muscle, and provides a healthy option . “We will give them free sports physicals here,” says Ammar Hanif.
Healthy Solutions Wellness Ministry recently provided health screenings for athletes competing in the Special Olympics. The health screenings are simple clothed exams which include height, weight, pulse, blood pressure, and are totally non-invasive. ‘Respecting their challenges and to accommodate the athletes’, Hanif travels to their schools to perform the exams.
Currently there may be anywhere from 10 to 20 people at the shelter as the numbers fluctuate weekly, says Hanif. At full capacity, it can accommodate 50 women and children. The shelter does not have a limit on how long a client can stay and expenses such water bills and grocery expenses for the many families living there limit how many residents can stay at a time.
On January 15, 2017, Asma Hanif, the head of the faith-based shelter that she calls home, passed out at the shelter, of exhaustion and vertigo. “Contemplating the numerous appeals this sister has made for help and assistance, we must ask ourselves have we, are any of us - and I include myself, doing enough in support of the work this sister is doing on behalf of those whom it is not just her responsibility but on all of us. And despite not receiving sufficient donations or the necessary help, this sister took on even more responsibility by accepting the continued requests from human rights organizations to house refugee muslim women and children; and orphans,” wrote Dr Saad Amir-Khan, in an open letter to the DMV community.
The shelter has gone through some reorganization. “We keep a portion of the center under a non-profit and part of the shelter is kept separate,” says Ammar Hanif. The for-profit portion was created to provide income for the shelter in a sustainable manner. “I am looking to hire someone as a shelter director, who will see the actual day to day operations,” says Ammar, who is trying to take the load of Sr Asma, who is also his mother. “We have been turning a lot of sisters away- we are hoping to purchase an apartment style house,” he says.