He may be 824 miles away, but Saad Mir wants to help the homeless in Baltimore, get their lives on track.
Mir, a fourth-year UF College of Medicine student, and his childhood friend, Omar Ishaq, a fourth-year John Hopkins School of Medicine student, are the co-directors and founders of the Sunnah Foundation, a Baltimore-based nonprofit organization that provides housing to the homeless.
“Omar contacted me and was like, ‘Hey man, I met this homeless guy at Wal-Mart, and I’ve been talking with him every day, and I want to help him’,” Mir said. “We always wanted to do something big and make a sustainable change, so we said, ‘Why don’t we do it now?’”
Mir and Ishaq began the foundation by using saved up loan money to purchase a house in Baltimore. Based on referrals from others, they chose five homeless men to live in the house, rent-free. They hoped providing the men with stable housing would help them to get an education and jobs.
“In normal shelters, people have to get in line daily,” Mir said. “How are you expected to get a job or education if you have to get in line somewhere? It’s not a good system.”
The five men lived in the house, located in East Baltimore near the John Hopkins Medical Campus, for several months. Ishaq stopped by the house daily to see the men’s progress, and Mir spent more than two months in Baltimore late last year to work on the foundation.
At the end of the men’s stay, one successfully completed the program and is now working toward a career as a social worker in Indiana. The other men, Mir said, were unable to complete the program for a variety of reasons: depression, drug abuse, psychiatric problems and incarceration for a past crime.
“Those are pretty difficult things to control when you’re a medical student who can’t be there all the time,” Mir said.
There will be a major overhaul of the program before another round of residents move in, Mir said. They are currently trying to find a home in a better part of Baltimore to house the program. The Sunnah Foundation accepts donations through their website, www.sunnahinc.org and is a 501(c)(3) application to be a tax-exempt nonprofit organization.
“We hoped for better, but now we know what to expect moving forward,” Mir said.
Mir did not publicize his foundation to his classmates and teachers, said Melanie Hagen, M.D., an associate professor of medicine in the UF College of Medicine. She learned about the foundation through a tagline on an email he sent her and clicked the link out of curiosity.
“I was very impressed,” Hagen said. “I knew he was inquisitive, thoughtful and hard-working, but I did not realize that he had such a vision of caring and compassion and a commitment to helping people.”
Mir will complete his residency training in neurology at a Partners HealthCare program in Boston. His first year will be spent in medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, followed by training in neurology at both Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Massachusetts General.