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Homeless during Ramadan

June 01 2023
Emdad (standing fourth to the right) pictured with the Humdum food bank team. © Emdad Rahman Emdad (standing fourth to the right) pictured with the Humdum food bank team. © Emdad Rahman

From late March to late April, Muslims observed the holy month of Ramadan. Throughout the UK, communities worked together during the month to support homeless people and people experiencing food poverty. By Emdad Rahman

Ramadan has been observed globally and now is a good time to reflect. During the month, one is blessed with a heightened sense of the difficulties faced by so many humans in their every day lives.

Fasting is an obligation for Muslims and refraining from food and water for a month brings empathy and understanding of the plight of others less fortunate.

The UK is home to many diverse communities and during the month of Ramadan, and through the Easter holidays, there was increased outreach activity to reach out to homeless people.

For example, food kitchens opened a little later in the day to enable those who are homeless to break their fast with hot food at sunset.

Iftar packs (the meal eaten after sunset to break the fast) were prepared in advance during the day by generous donors. The packs included water and dates, which are traditionally consumed to break the fast, starters, a main course and dessert, too.

Although the packs were prepared with Ramadan in mind, they were not restricted to Muslims only.

The cost of living crisis, and the lack of support and direction from the government, has resulted in many families and individuals struggling to afford a single nutritious meal a day.

During Ramadan, a friend of mine launched an appeal to provide Iftar packs. Through the Kind Counter outreach service in east London we were able to share a lovely hot Iftar with homeless friends we support throughout the year.

Meanwhile, another friend of mine was busy in the kitchen through Ramadan, putting her exquisite baking skills to use during the holy month. Sadly, she lost her Grandmother just before Ramadan began and so in her memory she created and produced delicious cakes and bakes to sell for good causes, but also to share with homeless people.

It was a powerful gesture and a pleasure sharing these treats on her behalf when I was doing outreach work. It was personally gratifying to be able to experience the smiling faces of happy recipients.

The volunteers at Humdum foodbank introduced an additional Ramadan service to cater for foodbank users who may be fasting. Team leader Nighat Bhola has always advocated serving good, high quality food and this year there was an extra special treat with the impending launch of the Humdum Community Restaurant.

The chef made restaurant-quality food for sharing with homeless people. For Iftar the team started cooking at midday and made takeaway packages for later consumption for those who were fasting. During weekends the trained chefs provided lunch and takeaways.

Community kitchens and foodbanks the length and breadth of the country operate 365 days a year, whilst there are several similar projects during occasions like the month of Ramadan, to serve free meals to homeless friends and rough sleepers, refugees, low income families and those generally struggling with life and the devastating cost of living crisis.

Kitchens like those at Humdum and the Kind Counter provide healthy, nutritious, hot and tasty meals to those experiencing food poverty. Additionally, the projects provide a safe space which is run by and for the community, a refuge of sorts, where people will be treated with respect and dignity.

The meals on wheels service enables volunteers to drop food parcels, books and other necessities to the homes of those who lack mobility and are unable to venture out and the project has continued to serve as a secure location for support and assistance, including selling household items at cost price for anyone on a low income as well as the distribution of sleeping bags for rough sleepers.

Projects like this run throughout the year, but Ramadan is a springboard for the rest of the year and is an ideal time to reflect, reorganise, reinvigorate and increase levels of service and solidarity.

Ramadan is a time when those on the frontline increase their efforts in community service, while those on the periphery will step up.

With the current cost of living crisis, the services provided by homeless outreach projects and community kitchens are even more crucial in order to alleviate hardship and food poverty.

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