Muslim Community Hosts "Day of Dignity" for Homeless

Mahmoud Bali cut hair throughout the day.
Mahmoud Bali cut hair throughout the day. Conor McCormick-Cavanagh
Denverites experiencing homelessness got a chance to spend Saturday, September 15, hanging out in a festive environment at Lawson Park as part of the third annual Denver Day of Dignity.

Muslim Family Services of Colorado and Islamic Relief USA co-organized the event, with volunteers handing out 500 hygiene kits, 350 backpacks, 300 school kits and 275 coats. Sixty participants were able to take showers at this Day of Dignity, which takes place in fifteen other cities across the country, and participants were encouraged to eat three meals and hang out in the park for the day.

"We aim for this event to be driven by people experiencing homelessness and want to make it like a festival," says Nadeen Ibrahim, the event's organizer.

The event was largely youth-driven, as the volunteers were mainly in their twenties. And they kept up the festive vibe throughout the day, playing music and encouraging participants to just relax.

The haircut station was the biggest hit for participants, eighty of whom walked away with new dos. Mahmoud Bali, one of the barbers who cut hair throughout the day, has worked at a local barber shop since coming to the U.S. as a Syrian refugee over a year and a half ago from Turkey. He now lives in the Denver area with his wife and three kids.

Even when the list for haircuts was cut off as the day's events came to a close, Bali continued cutting hair. One of his last clients, Sean, tried to pay him with the two remaining dollars he had left in his wallet. Bali declined, saying that it was free. "Thank you guys for doing what you do," said Sean.

Organizer Nadeen Ibrahim says Colorado's Muslim community isn't just coming out to serve residents one day a year, but does this type of service often.

"We do a lot of stuff in the community. Muslim Family Services is doing this stuff on a very daily basis," she says.
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Conor McCormick-Cavanagh is a staff writer at Westword, where he covers a range of beats, including local politics, immigration and homelessness. He previously worked as a journalist in Tunisia and loves to talk New York sports.