On Sunday evening, the SALAM Islamic Center will host more than 100 homeless guests as part of Sacramento County’s Winter Sanctuary program.
The program is a rotating shelter that’s held at different houses of worship during the winter months. Volunteers offer those experiencing homelessness a place to stay for one or several nights, as well as breakfast and dinner.
"This is a really important aspect of our faith – to be a part of the community – and to really take care of those who are less fortunate," said Anne Kjemptrup, Vice Chair at the SALAM Islamic Center.
Kjemptrup explains that the annual event is something members of the mosque look forward to every year.
"Everybody really wants to be a part of this moment,” she said. “I think because it is a chance to connect with folks that a lot of times we don't always have the opportunity to connect with.”
When the guests arrive, they’ll be served dinner by volunteers at the SALAM Community Center. They’ll also receive snacks, blankets, and shoes that the community donated.
“A lot of times, they just want to talk and tell their stories, and it's really good for our folks to hear those stories," Kjemptrup adds.
Celene Airdine, President of the SALAM Youth Leadership Council says she enjoys engaging with the guests and hearing their stories.
"I remember last year, they asked me to write in Arabic for them and I was more than happy to do it,” Airdine said. “If they spoke another language, they would write my name for me as well – and there was just like this communication and connection. If I see them again this year, I just want to go and give them a hug," she adds.
Organizers say the guests will stay the night, have breakfast, and leave at around 8 a.m.