A commonly held belief is that homelessness is due to one’s own failings. What most people don’t realise is that it is caused by multiple factors; a combination of personal circumstances and various social infrastructures, which are often outside of the direct control of the individual. The sad reality is, homelessness in the UK is on the rise and the numbers have risen consistently for the last three years in England. Statistics report that one in ten people experience homelessness at some point in their life, with one in fifty experiencing it in the last five years. This covers a broad demographic including the Muslim community in the UK. Yes – homelessness is an issue within our own community too.
The National Zakat Foundation (NZF) is a registered charity which seeks to alleviate poverty on our doorstep. One of the key drivers behind its inception was the alarming number of cases of homeless Muslim women in the UK of which it has been made been made aware. Some of these women were sleeping on park benches or turning to prostitution to feed their children. In 2012 the charity launched the UK’s first Muslim women’s shelter in London, and has since then opened up two further shelters in Birmingham and Manchester. These shelters provide a safe haven for destitute women who have nowhere to turn in times of desperate need.
Residents are assigned a key worker who can relate to the issues that they have struggled with. Women who have come to the UK through marriage for instance, face the hurdles of a foreign culture, language and land to navigate with no family or friends to support them in the case of marital breakdown. In some cases, the lack of a support network is used as a tool to control women who want to leave an abusive marriage, through reminders from the spouse that they have nobody to turn to.
NZF receives countless referrals of this nature and for every room that becomes vacant in the shelters, there is always someone else ready and waiting to occupy it.
Homelessness isn’t someone else’s problem. It is our problem. Through effective distribution of charity at a local level, NZF has been able to provide safe housing to women in desperate need. Its vision is a pious, confident, selfless and self-sufficient UK Muslim community, where no individual in need is left abandoned. To learn more about how NZF is alleviating poverty on our doorstep, visit www.nzf.org.uk.