Mas­sachusetts’ first Mus­lim-run women’s shel­ter wel­comes ev­ery faith.

Metro USA (Boston) - - FRONT PAGE - KRISTIN TOUS­SAINT @kristin­dakota kristin.tous­

On a Dorch­ester street lined with three-story res­i­dences, one green house with a vi­brant pur­ple door stands out.

The door opens to the Amal Women’s Cen­ter, a tran­si­tional home for women and chil­dren op­er­ated by the Mus­lim so­cial ser­vices or­ga­ni­za­tion ICNA Re­lief.

Opened this week, it marks the first Mus­lim-op­er­ated home­less shel­ter in Mas­sachusetts, ac­cord­ing to Ma­lika MacDon­ald-Rush­dan, ICNA Re­lief’s state field of­fice di­rec­tor.

Amal means “hope” in Ara­bic, MacDon­ald-Rush­dan ex­plained. The door’s vi­brant pur­ple color sig­ni­fies that feel­ing.

“We hope to ease the tran­si­tion, giv­ing these women the sup­port and tools they need to gain self-suf­fi­ciency,” she said. That help in­cludes guid­ing them to re­fer­rals pro­grams that teach English as a sec­ond lan­guage and oth­ers of­fer­ing classes to earn a high school equiv­a­lency de­gree. The cen­ter’s case­work­ers also pro­vide as­sis­tance with skills train­ing and job ap­pli­ca­tions.

The fa­cil­ity is open to all women seek­ing shel­ter.

The small tran­si­tional home opened its doors on April 17, and al­ready six of the 12 beds are oc­cu­pied. To wel­come the cen­ter to its In­ter­vale Street lo­ca­tion, Bos­ton Mayor Marty Walsh will take part in a rib­bon-cut­ting on Satur­day.

Amal Women’s Cen­ter has been in the works for four years, and marks ICNA Re­lief’s 14th fa­cil­ity across the coun­try. It pre­dated Don­ald Trump’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, and has noth­ing to do with pol­i­tics, MacDon­ald-Rush­dan said. She noted, how­ever, that the cen­ter won’t ac­cept un­doc­u­mented women, which could jeop­ar­dize the pro­gram’s ex­is­tence.

Or­ga­niz­ers aren’t wor­ried about fit­ting in with their new neigh­bor­hood, ei­ther. A mosque stands next door and the three-story home, which went un­oc­cu­pied for 20 years, had been a min­is­ter’s quar­ters, which prom­i­nent Mus­lim lead­ers vis­ited over the years.

“Our neigh­bor next door re­mem­bered Malcolm X walk­ing up this street,” MacDon­ald-Rush­dan said. Pho­to­graphs of Malcolm X and Min­is­ter Louis Far­rakhan, con­tro­ver­sial leader of the Na­tion of Is­lam, hang on the walls in­side the cen­ter.

Samyha, a 27-year-old woman, was just placed in the cen­ter this week with her 5-year-old son. They are the only ones who are not Mus­lim woman, a fact she said doesn’t bother her.

“They wel­comed me in, I’m there and I’m thank­ful,” said Samyha, whose first name is be­ing used to pro­tect her iden­tity. “Even though I’m not Mus­lim. The things I know about them now, I didn’t know be­fore, so I’m go­ing to be open-minded. You can’t be judg­men­tal — they’re not judg­men­tal to­ward me.”


Ma­lika MacDon­ald-Rush­dan in front of a wall at the Amal Women’s Cen­ter. Amal means “hope” in Ara­bic, and trans­la­tions of the word are writ­ten on the wall. DEREK KOUYOUMJIAN

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