Shelter for Muslim women to open in Montreal this summer
Sakeenah Homes will help women fleeing abuse find long-term housing
A transitional shelter designed specifically to support Muslim women in Montreal is set to open its doors this June.
Sakeenah Homes, a Toronto-based charity, has just signed a lease in the northwest part of the island for a physical space to welcome Muslim women who are navigating trauma and immigration issues as they search for long-term housing.
"Our goal is to not only have a serene environment inside of these transitional shelters, but we also want this to be the case in everyone's home," said Zena Chaudhry, founder and CEO of Sakeenah Homes.
"When you walk into the [Sakeenah] home, it feels like a normal everyday family home because we just want the women and children to recover from traumatic experiences."
The charity operates its shelters through an Islamic lens with halal food and prayer spaces available to women and children who stay. Kitchen services are offered at all hours of the day for those who fast while observing Ramadan.
Since opening its first home in 2018, the charity now operates in Brampton, Ottawa, and London, Ont. Each location keeps 10 to 12 beds and a couple of bassinets to accommodate young families.
"If someone needs shelter or needs counselling or any of the services, they can call us, and we'll connect them to our case workers," Chaudhry said.
Although the Montreal shelter is only expected to open this summer, the group has been helping women from the city remotely for two years.
"If we can't find a safe shelter for them to be in, we'll actually pay for them to be in a hotel or a motel for a few nights until our case workers can help them find long-term housing."
WATCH | Zena Chaudhry explains the idea behind Sakeenah Homes
Before setting up in a new city, the team of 16 staff members and volunteers contacts local hospitals and community groups to make their work known and connect the families they support to existing services.
"We want to ensure that we're integrating with the community so the women and children don't ever feel alienated," Chaudhry said.
Imam Imran Shariff of the Madani mosque in Ahuntsic-Cartierville and one of Sakeenah Homes' partners says the shelter's presence will encourage women to report domestic violence.
"When it comes to Muslims and domestic abuse, we know people often say, 'Muslim women are being controlled' but it's a common issue across cultures," Shariff said.
"We're in the business of trying to help people go the extra mile so this shelter will be a wonderful resource where Muslim women can feel more comfortable knowing that there are Muslims considering their dietary restrictions and understanding their culture."
While non-Muslim women are welcome to stay at the shelter, Chaudhry says it's important for Muslim women in particular to access shelters that meet their needs.
"We ask that everyone respect the rules, just so those women can have that one place where they can have serenity."
with files from CBC Montreal's Daybreak