(CNN) — A reminder from the Prophet Muhammad about giving to “humanity” is painted on the exterior of a nondescript South Brooklyn building that has opened its doors to migrants of all faiths.
Over the past nine months, the Muslim Community Center has collectively hosted some 75 asylum seekers. But they want to do more.
“As Muslims, we have an obligation to help accommodate migrants and people who are traveling, and we have decided to take that step,” Soniya Ali, the center’s executive director, told CNN.
The center is one of a number of religious organizations that have applied to New York City to house migrants. In turn, the city has signed a contract with New York Disaster Interfaith Services, a religious charity, to provide 950 beds to asylum seekers, according to a government official with knowledge of the city plan.
In the Muslim center, beds already line an upper floor living space, along with a kitchenette, sanitary facilities and a couple of sofas. “We have 17 migrants housed. Each bed is their living space,” Ali explains.
Each of the 50 “faith-based stabilization shelters” will have 19 beds. The city plans to open 10 shelters on July 1 and then open an additional 10 shelters each month through November, with the option to extend the contract to open more shelters, according to an official.
However, centers like Ali’s will have to meet building regulations to accommodate these large groups. “We must have carbon monoxide detectors, smoke detectors and fire extinguishers, as well as a sprinkler system,” Ali told CNN.
When asked about his motivation for starting the shelter, Ali told CNN that he was only five years old when his family came to the United States from Kashmir.
“I can perfectly understand how they feel when they talk about their families or the children they left behind or their wives or whoever they left behind, because I have relatives at home who are not here,” Ali said. “And you feel that sense of longing, so I understand that part of his journey and his situation.”
“Aid”. This is the moving response in one word from the Senegalese migrant Mamadou Deiallo, who has been in the shelter since August. His story is well known. Without legal work authorization, he remains in unemployment limbo.
“The city needs to help all immigrants,” Deiallo told CNN.
The transformation of places of worship into shelters comes as New York continues to search for other places to house its nearly 45,000 homeless immigrants. Mayor Eric Adams declared that the city is overwhelmed and cannot continue to support the number of migrants arriving.
In the coming days, the city and state will work to open an emergency respite center for adult asylum seekers at the former Lincoln Correctional Facility, a spokesperson for the City Council told CNN on Sunday.
They said there are no “cells” in downtown Harlem. The site has been vacant since it closed in 2019, the spokesperson said.
“We are grateful to the state for providing this site and partnering with the city to open this space as a temporary site for asylum seekers as New York City continues to deal with this humanitarian crisis,” the spokesperson told CNN.
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