Editor's note: Every week, HuffPost Religion shines a spotlight on religious people doing good work in their communities. If you would like to recommend a faith-inspired organization, initiative or person in your community, send an email to email@example.com or tweet to @huffpostrelig using the hashtag #faithinspires.
This week’s Faith Inspires highlights the work of Yusef Ramelize, a Muslim graphic designer in his 30s who lives in Ozone Park, N.Y., and his project, “Homeless For One Week.” Ramelize is committed to raising awareness about New York’s vulnerable homeless population in creative ways. How does he do this? By becoming homeless. Literally.
For the past four years, and often during Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting, Yusef Ramelize left his home, family and work, for one week to live on the streets of New York City. While doing so, he raised money for food banks and other charitable organizations that provide services to New York City’s homeless population. This year he is raising money for Muslims Against Hunger, a network of volunteer communities that works with the homeless and hungry, and educates the Muslim community about the problems of hunger, poverty and homelessness. He has raised $2,555 so far this year, and $11,929 in the past three years.
This year Ramelize took a vow of silence as well. Armed with nothing but a backpack and a notebook and pen to communicate, he inhabited the area in and around Washington Square Park from Aug. 5-11. As a practicing Muslim, Ramelize observed the fast from dawn to sunset and attended iftars (meal to break the fast) and taraweeh (congregational prayers at night) at the Islamic Center at New York University.
So why did Ramelize choose to go homeless and voiceless?
“There are so many misconceptions about the homeless. Usually, people think that being homeless is a far-fetched idea. But I’ve volunteered with food banks and soup kitchens, and [I felt] that the faces I saw there could be my face. Almost anyone can become homeless in today’s economy if they lose a job,” Ramelize told The Huffington Post. Spending time on the streets over the past few years, Ramelize felt that while homeless people were seen in many places, they were rarely heard. And that inspired him to take a vow of silence this year.
Why did Ramelize choose to leave the comfort of home during Ramadan when he is fasting from dawn to sunset? “Ramadan is the best time to give. When you give in Ramadan, the blessings multiply. This is my charity and giving back,” Ramelize said.
This is the last year that Ramelize is choosing to go homeless as part of his “Homeless For A Week” project. “I want to re-evaluate everything and do something a little different,” said Ramelize, who will continue to raise awareness about homelessness.
HuffPost Religion applauds the good work of Yusef Ramelize and his project, Homeless For One Week. You can check out the project’s website here, like it on Facebook here, and follow it on Twitter here.
Now, we want to hear from you! Who is making a positive impact in your community? Let us know by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or tweeting to @huffpostrelig using the hashtag #faithinspires
Click through the slideshow to look at Muslims who are doing incredible work in their community. They are recognized by Muslim Heroes, an organization featured in HuffPost Religion's Faith Inspires series: