Community, Non-profit

A Personal Experience Makes Helping the Homeless Meaningful

Al-Amin Muhammad tells his story on how the We Rise Above the Streets organization was founded and why. (c) 2017 Mye Owens

By Mye Owens Syracuse, N.Y. (NCC News)–  We Rise Above the Streets Recovery Outreach Organization was founded by Al-Amin Muhammad. The organization helps the homeless, but there was a time when Muhammad was homeless himself.

Before starting the organization, Muhammad grew up in Chicago, Ill. While living there, Muhammad was surrounded by gang activity. “All of my friends growing up are either dead or in prison,” he says. With friends who were drug dealers, he spent many years behind bars in prison. When he was released from prison, he moved to Atlanta, Ga. to try to get away from the guns and violence. But Muhammad found himself back in prison, even after moving.

While in prison Muhammad would look at pictures of his daughters every night. His cell mate noticed, and asked him  if he died today, what kind of legacy would he be leaving his children?

“I couldn’t really answer that. In my mind I was saying I’m a drug dealer. I want nothing, I was going in and out of jail. That’s all they knew. So, I broke down crying,” says Muhammad. Thinking to himself, this is when he knew he needed to make a change. The change he wanted to make was

After Muhammad finished his time in prison, he was homeless in Atlanta. Being homeless was something he had to get used to, but it wasn’t easy.

“I was confused. I slept outside. Got to the point that I got hungry, I was ashamed to beg for food. I started eating out of garbage cans, and started sleeping under bridges,” Muhammad explains.

During this new time in his life, Muhammad started working with a non-profit organization, where he worked his way up to a leadership position. He also attended Atlanta Technical College. After finishing college, he decided to start his own non-profit organization.

With a new organization, a new home, and a new job; something else became new. Muhammad met his wife on Facebook. His girlfriend lived in Syracuse, so they began a long distance relationship. After meeting in person, the couple got married on a day Muhammad will never forget, his birthday. The couple then moved to Syracuse, where they live now.

One day Muhammad drove around to explore Syracuse. Seeing the city, he was inspired to help the homeless community; a community he once was a part of. We Rise Above the Streets Recovery Outreach Inc. came

The organization focuses on three events:

  • Sandwich Saturday
  • the Clothing Closet
  • Community Cookouts

Sandwich Saturday was originally started from Muhammad’s home. In the first week, he had made over 200 sandwiches to give to those who were homeless. Now, Muhammad’s office fills with volunteers making healthy lunches of turkey sandwiches, chips, and fruit, to pass out.

Muhammad figured out what the homeless need the most was clothes, so he asked for donations. They came rolling in, with over 1,000 volunteers coming to donate clothes. The Clothing Closet gives those who are in need of clothes a variety of items to stay comfortable.

Muhammad works with other organizations to to put on community cookouts. Those who are part of the homeless community are free to come to the park and enjoy a meal while learning about different things, including HIV/AIDS.

Below is a list of items We Rise Above the Streets is looking to be donated:

  • Gallon size Ziploc bags
  • Soap
  • Deodorant
  • Toothbrushes
  • Travel-Size Hand sanitizer
  • Sanitary Pads
  • Tampons
  • Advil tablets
  • Flush-able wipes
  • Travel-size Toothpaste
  • Travel-size Shampoo
  • Travel-size Conditioner
  • Winter hats/gloves/scarves/socks


We Rise Above the Streets Organization works to bring awareness to the homeless community. (c) 2015 We Rise Above the Streets Recovery Outreach Inc.