Muslims reach out to homeless with Ramadan charity

The Boston Herald

October 15, 2006

By Shaun Tolson

In the spirit of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, local Muslim organizations are providing charitable aid to the needy and homeless in 14 cities across the nation, including Boston for the first time.

“You don’t see much out there to try to help people who are in need,” a homeless veteran said on the steps of the Tobin Community Center in Roxbury.

It was a declaration of appreciation for the “Humanitarian Day for the Homeless” event at the center, sponsored by Islamic Relief.

More than 350 volunteers provided clothing, personal hygiene items, toys, brown-bagged bundles of food, and bottles of water to those in need, with no questions asked.

“Here we don’t ask for anything, we take people on their word,” said Nataka Craton, one of the lead coordinators for the event, who’s been homeless for most of her adult life.

In addition to care packages, the event offered free health-care information and screenings, including blood pressure evaluations and glucose tests.

“To me it’s an awesome opportunity to be face to face with people with unmet needs,” said Umbereen Nehal, a volunteering pediatrician. “Every contribution you make is meaningful, because it’s never happened here before.”

The volunteers hoped to attract 2,000 needy, so having only a slow trickle through the doors was disappointing.

“There are more people who are homeless and in need than the number of people here. Just go down to St. Francis House around lunchtime and you’ll see that,” said William Gumes, who blamed the low turnout on the Islamic connection. “People are just scared.”

“With a beautiful day like today, this event should be on the Common,” he said. “You already have people there shaking a cup and asking for a handout. The handout is here, but they don’t know it.”

Nataka Crayton had a solution.

“We have our vans; I have my station wagon,” she said. “We’ll get the aid where it’s needed.”

http://news.bostonherald.com/localRegional/view.bg?articleid=162377

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