As many as 900 Canadian Muslims are taking turns driving around Toronto at night in a bus through early March to provide the city’s homeless hot meals, hygiene kits, warm winter clothing and a chance to rest or seek temporary shelter. The mobile shelter project is “driven by the Islamic values of helping the less fortunate in society.”
Religion News Service reports that volunteers in the repurposed bus, which launched December 3, take care of 30 to 50 homeless people on an average day.
The bus is the brainchild of Naeem Farooqi, the project’s manager and a member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association of Canada, a charity group that trains youth in humanitarian activities. Farooqi, who works in the transit industry, hit upon the idea of a mobile service for the homeless in 2018.”
Realizing that Toronto’s chronically overwhelmed shelter system is struggling to cope with the homeless population, Farooqi pitched his idea of a mobile shelter to Humanity First Canada, the Canadian branch of the international nonprofit founded in 1994 by Mirza Tahir Ahmad, then head of the worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. The organization, best known for assisting victims of natural disaster around the world, promptly purchased a bus and converted its interior for the care of the homeless.
“I’ve done a lot of charity work abroad, from Africa to South America, but I haven’t really done much for my own community locally,” Farooqi said, adding “Charity starts at home. That got me focused on this bus concept.”
The climate-controlled vehicle has 20 beds, a kitchenette, lounge, bathroom, and is equipped with wireless internet and a secure storage space for belongings.
“Charity starts at home. That got me focused
on this bus concept.”
Farooqi tells Religion News Service that his team of volunteers is “driven by the Islamic values of helping the less fortunate in society.” Not surprisingly, the bus has been a godsend to Toronto’s homeless population, which lost 57 people to the cold weather and other causes in the first half of 2019, according to Toronto Public Health. Some of the bus’s overnight guests have praised it as “heaven” and the Muslim volunteers as “angels.”
“Our goal is to give people anything they might need to make their situation a little more comfortable over the winter months,” Farooqi said.
Humanity First Canada recently purchased a second bus and is expected to soon start fundraising to convert the vehicle’s interior. The nonprofit plans to have three buses to meet the needs of the city’s homeless by next winter.
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