BY MITKO GRIGORO
Wednesday, April 9, 2008 12:49 PM EDT
In an attempt to alleviate the problems of homelessness and poverty in the community, a new temporary housing unit for women is opening its doors in Jamaica.
Located at 87-91 144th Street, the center is operated by ICNA Relief USA, a subdivision of the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), a nationally-recognized Islamic, non-profit organization that has been serving both the Muslim and non-Muslim communities since its inception in 1967.
The shelter will provide clean and safe housing for women living in extreme poverty, who are 18 years of age and older, legal residents of the United States, and demonstrate a desire to become self-sufficient and independent. Although ICNA is a Muslim organization, the center is open to all women regardless of religion or ethnicity as long as they follow the rules of no substance abuse, no violence, no foul language, and no men in the house. The shelter includes four bedrooms with a total of 10 beds for the women, a room for the resident counselor and a cozy kitchen, where food will be provided.
Once admitted, the women can stay for up to three months. While ICNA members realize that might not be a long period of time, they are trying to supplement it with personal development and career training and will refer the women to different jobs, eventually putting them on the path to become self-sufficient.
During the opening ceremony on Wednesday April 2, Khurshid Khan, President of ICNA, reminded an estimated three dozen people swarming the cramped quarters of the relief agency of the social services, community projects and activities that the organization has been providing for some time now.
"We were in Indonesia, in Pakistan, and in Bangladesh, when there was a disaster. We helped during [Hurricane] Katrina and the fires in California," he said.
Through its numerous chapters across the United States and Canada, ICNA is dedicated not only to assisting its members in improving the spiritual aspects of their lives, but also to serve the community and initiate dialogue among religions.
"We work with Catholics and also Jewish groups. There are only a few differences [between the three religions] and many similarities," Khan said.
Councilmember John Liu, who attended the meeting, congratulated ICNA on behalf of all New Yorkers. "ICNA is very well known for its work in the Muslim community," he said. "We certainly support what [the organization] is doing here.
I would prefer that we didn't need to have such a center, but the reality is that we do."
Representatives from the offices of New York State Senator Malcolm A. Smith and Councilmembers Leroy Comrie and Tony Avella also took the lecturn to express their appreciation of ICNA's community involvement and to offer their help and support for the cause. Sergeant Timothy Schmidt from the 103rd Precinct, who also attended the meeting, promised to work and cooperate with ICNA.
Today there are 36 million people living in poverty in the United States; almost half of them are women. The figures for New York State and Queens in particular are above the national average.
With the help of donations, ICNA Relief is hoping to help some of these women and assist them in becoming independent citizens. Currently, the organization is developing a similar shelter, dedicated to men.
"This is a humble beginning, but it is also only the beginning," Malika Rushdan, director of Youth and Community Development at ICNA Relief, said.
For more information about the temporary housing for women or any of the other ICNA programs, including educational workshops, immigration support and family support services, call 718-658-7028 or visit ICNA Relief USA on the web at www.icnarelief.org.