By Dylan Deprey
The moment Mahdi shut his car door, he realized he was homeless. He wasn’t addicted to drugs. He hadn’t gambled his money away. He wasn’t living a life of crime. He was a young college student with some money in the bank, no job and no credit.
He had just moved to Texas for school. After making a couple mistakes early on, he had gotten himself kicked out of his first choice and had to relocate to a smaller school. There were no dorms and nobody would rent to him. All he had was a car packed with his belongings and a YMCA membership.
“I remember the first night vividly,” Mahdi said. “You think Texas is hot, but at night it drops into the 40’s. Unless you’re running the car non-stop, which you don’t want to do because you draw attention to yourself, it’s cold.”
He heard every noise. He could barely keep his eyes shut. He had shelter and a place to stay clean, but it was far from a home. He felt hopeless, afraid and alone. It wasn’t until a woman in class reached out to him.
“I don’t know how she knew I was living out of my car, but she took me in.”
He eventually got a job, and after making some money, he found a place to stay. After getting his degree and moving to Milwaukee, he never forgot about the experience.
“Once I got situated, I did more,” he said. “When you live for so long without, and then you finally get it, you look at everybody else that are living without and it’s like, ‘Why not give back?’”
Since 2005, Nurse Mahdi has given back to those in need. Whether it’s throwing water drives and neighborhood clean ups, to handing out clothes and providing medical help, he has made it a mission to aid the abandoned.
Over the course of the years, he has kept in contact with a few people that had successfully got back on their feet. While catching up, they would talk about the necessities that went overlooked. Some of the women he had met that were pregnant and needed things like prenatal vitamins. Others would talk about how much a hot shower meant to them.
“I was hoping to do something concrete that would kind of spark some kind of humanity amongst people,” Mahdi said. “I was sitting there thinking, ‘If I didn’t have a shower, how would I have done?’”
He designed a mobile shower and resource clinic for the homeless. It was a place where someone could get a warm shower, food, medical help and resources.
He had the designs and access to resources, but he needed help with the construction. He reached out to Ronnie Lockett, his longtime community barber. After $2,200 and hours of labor, they successfully built the first of 10 for Summer 2019. His goal is to have 40 self-sufficient, City and community funded Community Resource Hygiene Clinics (CRHC) by 2020.
“It wasn’t about raising money, it was about regular people helping regular people in time of need,” Mahdi said. “I don’t need a shower, neither does Ronnie, but that’s not the attitude to have because there are a lot of people without.”
Throughout the entire building process, Lockett said Mahdi inspired him to give back to Milwaukee’s beating heart: the inner city.
“As a pillar in this community, and the lovely people who have supported me and my family, I felt compelled and honored to be a part of giving back to so many who have gave to me,” Lockett said.
He said it was about showing the youth that they could be a catalyst in their community. It was an example that when brothers and neighbors collaborated they could really make a difference.
“This is a collective effort,” Lockett said. “A simple barber can sit here and build a shower with the skills God blessed me to have, and I can be an example for the people out here.”
As for Mahdi’s ultimate goal, he said he hopes Milwaukee can pull together and care for each other.
“I want people to one up me,” Mahdi said. “I hope they say, ‘If that barber and nurse did that, I’ll do it bigger.’ I don’t care if it’s a competition, as long as people are helping people.”
Since Mahdi created a GoFundMe on April 1, he has raised $1,230 of the $15,000 goal. To donate to the Community Resource Hygiene Clinics (CRHC) visit: https://www.gofundme.com/community-resource-hygiene-clinics-crhc