The New Environment Empowerment Program @ the YWCA Northeast Indiana

The New Environment Empowerment Program @ the YWCA Northeast Indiana

Image: Environment Empowerment Program Creator and Manager Hakim Muhammad

Two months ago, YWCA CEO Paula Hughes-Schuh hired Hakim Muhammad as a Crises Services Assistant and as an Environmental Specialist, a new role created for him to develop a program that empowers by appreciating a clean environment.

“[Hughes-Schuh] gave me the parameters, but I created specifics,” Muhammad said.

Muhammad even wrote the motto for the Environment Empowerment program: Take care of your environment so your environment can take care of you.

 Hakim Muhammad has worked over 25 years, since high school, for his parents Isaac and Mary as an associate, then later as a manager, for Perry Carpet Cleaners. He used his Business Administration degree at Perry’s, “trying to bring the family business into the 21st Century,” Muhammad said.

“But I wanted to utilize my second bachelor’s degree [in Psychology] in the human services industry and give back to the community.” The YWCA is Muhammad’s (Sunday through Thursday) nighttime job. “It was a good fit for me.”

According to Muhammad, the YWCA Northeast Indiana (NEIN), 5920 Decatur Road, was the first program in Fort Wayne to have a domestic shelter for abused women, established in the mid to late ‘70s. Muhammad works on the shelter side. (The YWCA’s Hope House program assists women coming out of addiction.)

“The ladies are really the heroes of the story. They are brave enough to leave a very bad situation and seek refuge to improve themselves,” Muhammad said.

If nothing else, the program provides stability.

Muhammad’s Environment Empowerment program consists of three components. The first component revolves a reward system with points for cleaning the suites (living quarters), kitchens areas, and common rooms.

There are five suites at the YWCA NEIN; the fifth suite is dedicated for men and/or transgender individuals. Each suite has four different rooms, and can potentially house 55 individuals; each suite currently has around 16 residents,” Muhammad said.

The second component sees the suite residents appointing a team leader, which provides a client an opportunity to manage a group in their duties, maybe for the first time in their lives. “As a co-worker told me, ‘these are valuable skills that [our clients] can mention during a job interview’ because they would be responsible for sixteen some odd people.”

The third component is the Staff and Check system, involving various facility charts for multiple levels of accountability by staff and team leaders.

Friendly competition is encouraged at every component.

There’s also an education component, which is more or less a discussion between Muhammad and each suite team about an article that he’s unearthed about living in a clean environment. “It’s a two-way street. I learn about them and they learn about me. Any issues we resolve together as a team.”