Going Homeless in Ramadan
August 31, 2010 § Leave a comment
These are the reflections of one activist who decided to go homeless for a week to experience the life of those suffering from poverty, and to draw attention to the issue of homelessness in America. May Allah reward his efforts!
By: Yusef Ramelize
In 2009 I went homeless in the first week of March, but it was nothing compared to doing my summer homeless project this year. Even though my homeless experience last year was in the middle of the winter and I slept in the subway stations and trains, my journey this year was much more difficult because I was sleeping outside in the street on a card board box every night. I was fasting during the day with very little energy and I was face to face with homeless people because of course the homeless are much more visible during the summer. It was a more “real” experience this year.
My days consisted of giving out fliers during the day or sleeping on park benches. When sunset arrived, I would walk to the NYU Islamic Center to break my fast. Most nights I’d walk to Park51 to say my tarawih (nighttime) prayers. I didn’t sleep much. After the night prayers, I’d walk to Union Square from downtown, spending hours trying to find a place to sleep.
This project isn’t about me finding a cure for homelessness; I want to inspire people to make their own sacrifices and become agents of change. Change doesn’t need to come from extreme means – it comes from someone simply paying attention to the issue of homelessness, striking up a conversation with a homeless person, asking them if they’d like some food, or simply giving them a smile.
I’ve learned that education about homelessness is very important. I’ve spoken to so many people that think homeless people are “lazy” and “don’t want to work.” One of my goals is to let people know how false this statement is. Anyone could become homeless. In fact, many of us are just one paycheck away from being homeless, especially in NYC and how expensive it is to live and survive here.
I am a Muslim and I see the beauty in it everyday, especially in the holy month of Ramadan. Going homeless for one week during this month helped me to reflect even further on the trials and tribulations that the less fortunate suffer from. I can choose to eat when I want. Not everyone has that choice. Support from my family and friends is what gave me the push to take on this journey and to not give up.
One of the most touching moments of my homeless experience was while I was sleeping on a bench in Union Square Park and I felt a stare that made me wake up. It was my sister and her eyes were filled with tears. She said, “Yusef… All my life I was living in a bubble, selfish, not concerning my self with the world’s problems. Not caring about any one’s problems but my own. This year seeing you go through this journey has made me realize that I desperately need to change.”
We talked on that bench and figured out all the different things she would volunteer for this year and in the years to come. Remembering this moment still brings tears to my eyes.
Knowing that I was able to inspire my sister means the world to me. It feels like the greatest accomplishment that anyone could ask for.
I hope that my journey was able to educate, inspire and change a few people’s hearts about homelessness.