Lotus House Women’s Shelter is already proving that it’s possible to end homelessness. Next up: Preventing it entirely.
As more people relocate to South Florida and the Miami real estate market proves to be one of the strongest in the U.S., we are still contending with a population of unhoused individuals that need help.
In fact, the 1,068 people listed on the county’s January census of the homeless population was up 9% from 2022’s count. Add in people living in emergency shelters, and the growth rate doubles to 18%.
With the homeless population growing in Miami-Dade County as more businesses and individuals move here, Miami must address this affordability challenge that’s impacting residents across the board.
One nonprofit organization, Lotus House – the nation’s largest shelter exclusively serving women and children – is working to end homelessness. In fact, more than 80 percent of the shelter’s guests successfully exit the shelter system following their time at Lotus Village, far exceeding the national average of between 60 and 65 percent.
Recently, Lotus House celebrated the groundbreaking of a new Children’s Village that will advance the nonprofit’s mission of ending – and preventing – homelessness by addressing the needs of children from a young age.
Centered on the educational, wellness, and special needs of children and youth, the five-story facility will expand Lotus House’s reach into the surrounding community, complementing the organization’s 500-bed shelter located directly across the street. Features of the new building will include a preschool for children ages three to five, afterschool and summer programs, child and family therapeutic services, access to healthcare and social services, a playground, and a vast array of community resources and programming.
“In the Children’s Village, we are taking another step forward, preventing homelessness and uplifting our community, by empowering children and families with enriched educational and therapeutic supports, exciting and diverse programming for kids, and greater access to health and social services and community resources,” Lotus House founder Constance Collins told the Commercial Observer.
“Lotus Village was built on the premise that a shelter centered on the acute needs of women and children, complete with trauma-informed, evidence-based therapies and holistic programming could end homelessness. We know this model works, and we know that what makes it successful is the generosity of our community, stepping forward time and again to make all that we do possible,” Collins added.
Adding a dose of star power to the monumental celebration, philanthropist Gisele Bündchen announced a $1 million gift that will fund a new playground along with programming within the Children’s Village.
“Building a solid community for children is so important, especially for those who are vulnerable and in need,” Bündchen told People Magazine. “Like everything in life, it takes a seed of an idea for something to grow, and I am honored to help Lotus House grow its impact with the creation of the Children’s Village.”
Since opening its doors with 34 shelter beds in 2006, Lotus House has grown to serve more than 10,000 women, children, and youth. In 2018, the organization debuted the state-of-the-art Lotus Village, which has set national standards for shelter design, operation, and programming.
The Children’s Village will benefit from the continued in-kind support of many volunteers, including general contractor Civic Construction; Behar-Font & Partners architects; engineers M2E Consulting, Inc.; civil engineers Avino & Associates; Savino & Miller Design Studio; Permit Me expediters; and law firm Bilzin Sumberg, where a team of attorneys including John Sumberg, Sara Barli Herald, and Javier Aviñó are spearheading all facets of land use, zoning and permitting, and tax credit financing.
As policymakers weigh proposals aimed at making Miami more affordable, Lotus House has developed innovative solutions which can be replicated at scale, both in South Florida and beyond.
With more residents flocking to the Sunshine State, addressing the affordability crisis and ending homelessness is needed now more than ever in order to build a better, sustainable Miami.