Local Muslims feed and clothe the homeless for the “Day of Dignity” event during Ramadan.
Sunday, September 7, 2008
By Tan Vinh
ERIKA SCHULTZ / THE SEATTLE TIMES
Volunteers load up bags to distribute to the homeless Saturday at the Millionair Club in downtown Seattle. Muslims in Seattle and Portland are among those in 18 participating cities who plan to feed 25,000 homeless people this month.
No one can recall who made the first donation or who called out for volunteers. But by Saturday morning, it was clear that representatives from nearly every Seattle-area mosque had shown up to feed and greet the city’s neediest.
Jeremy from Bothell bought socks, blankets and winter hats. Rashid from Rainier Valley delivered sandwiches.
Their goal was to ensure that the only folks with the empty stomachs under this roof were the Muslims who were fasting as part of Ramadan.
During their religion’s holiest month, Muslims from a dozen local mosques set out to provide food and winter supplies to at least 600 homeless people as part of a nationally coordinated effort called the “Day of Dignity.” During Ramadan, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset each day and are encouraged to be generous in word and deed.
Muslims in Seattle and Portland are among those in 18 participating cities who plan to feed 25,000 homeless people this month. In Seattle, the event was held at the Millionair Club downtown.
For four hours, the women behind the veils greeted the homeless and listened to hard-luck stories from people such as Sandra Carpenter, 61, who has been sleeping on a mat in a Seattle shelter the past month while waiting for public housing.
She picked up some gloves, socks and a beanie hat and waited for University of Washington medical students to check her blood pressure.
“These people treated me with dignity, and that is all I can ask for,” said Carpenter, who grew up in Seattle. “I may be down on my luck, but I am still a human being. It’s sort of nice to be treated like one.”
The line of homeless men and women stretched three blocks long before the doors even opened. Many Muslims chatted with them while they waited.
“We wanted to talk to them and listen to them,” said Murtaza Junejo, 33, of Seattle, one of the event’s organizers. “We want them to know that we care.”
Mohammad Sarhan, another organizer, said, “This is a day for us, as well. It gives us a perspective on what it’s like to be homeless.”
By late afternoon, the dozens of volunteers had taken to the streets and shelters around downtown, handing out the last backpacks filled with food and blankets.