This weekend, local Muslims—including some Syrian refugees—will gather to give out supplies and offer services to the homeless.
The 10th annual Day of Dignity will be held all day on November 5 at the Millionair Club in Belltown. Volunteers will give out hundreds of sleeping bags (to protect against hypothermia, a serious problem for many homeless people), hygiene supplies, rain gear, jackets and other warm clothing, and free lunch. UW medical student volunteers will also be on hand to offer basic health services, including dental screening, check ups for BMI, blood pressure, health education, and information about medical insurance.
It’s the largest Muslim charity event in Seattle, and it’s held a few weeks before Thanksgiving to address the lull in services for the homeless between October and November, before Christmas season picks things up again, according to Aziz Junejo, a local Muslim TV show host who’s helped organize the event for the past 10 years.
“It’s just a way Muslims are trying to reach out and give back,” says Junejo.
Organizers expect to help between 300 and 500 people this year, and Seattle Mayor Ed Murray will attend. According to Junejo, Murray reached out and made plans to attend following the nightclub massacre in Orlando, Florida on June 12, in an effort to come out and meet the Muslim community.
According to a press release, the event is paid for by donations from individuals as well as 20 local mosques and Islamic community centers.
Last year, Junejo said, a lot of homeless veterans showed up to the event. Some greeted volunteers with the Muslim greeting “Assalamu Alaikum” (Peace be upon you), which they learned from their service in Iraq or Afghanistan. This year, organizers expect even more homeless veterans to show up. To help this population, organizers this year partnered with the Washington Department of Veterans.
Every year, volunteers for the Day of Dignity have delivered additional supplies for the homeless where they’re most needed, to supplement the giveaways at the Millionair Club, starting in the early years with giveaways at the Nickelseville homeless encampment. This year, through word of mouth, organizers have learned that many homeless veterans might not be able to make it to the Millionair Club, and so they plan to drop off around 35 bags of gear and supplies at the Department of Veteran Affairs on Monday.
A few recently arrived Syrian refugees will be among the volunteers serving on Saturday. Syrian refugees have been helping out at the Day of Dignity for the past few years, Junejo says, and there are parallels between them and the city’s homeless. Many of the refugees are also struggling, and “are basically arriving here with just the clothes on their back,” he said. “These folks know what it means to suffer and they really want to give back.”