Offering more than a bed and a meal, Lotus House helps women rebuild their lives. “Lotus House was my beginning.” Those are the words of one woman, but they reflect the life-changing opportunity given to all who seek refuge at Lotus House, a unique shelter for homeless women in Miami, Florida.
Over half a million people – a quarter of them children – were homeless in the U.S. last year.
This finding is from a November 2015 study released by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development1. The report found that on a single night in January 2015:
There were 564,708 homeless people
Nearly 7 in 10 people experiencing homelessness were staying in sheltered locations, and 31 percent were unsheltered.
Nearly two-thirds (64%) of people experiencing homelessness were individuals, while over a third (36%) were families with children.
While strides have been made across America in addressing homelessness, it remains one of the most persistent and pressing challenges facing our communities. Often overlooked is the fact that the majority of homeless families are headed by single women. And children under the age of 4 are at the greatest risk of homelessness.
One of the organizations on the frontlines of homelessness is South Florida’s Lotus House. Established in 2006, Lotus House is a shelter in Miami’s Overtown, the historic African American district, one of the poorest inner-city neighborhoods in the U.S.
A quiet enclave with lush gardens, Lotus House is Miami’s only shelter exclusively serving women and children. It is specially designed and equipped to meet their unique needs, offering a family-like environment where they can restart life without abuse, drugs or crime – the problems that put them on the street.
The shelter – named after the pink lotus flower, the universal symbol of compassion – provides housing for up to one year, which allows these fragile families the time needed to heal and improve the quality of their lives on every level.
Number of women and children sheltered nightly
Number of women and children
Newborns who will call Lotus House their first home
Experts say Lotus House offers one of the most comprehensive homeless programs in Florida, and should be a model for shelters nationwide.
Unlike other shelters, Lotus House provides more than just a bed and meal. Using a “trauma-informed, holistic format”, the organization offers wrap-around support services that help women break the cycle of homelessness. These services include:
Access to medical and mental health care
A maternity program with pre-natal care
Group and individual therapy
Life skills and educational advancement
Job readiness training
Enrichment activities – from art, dance and music to yoga and meditation
Over 90% of the homeless women at Lotus House have experienced child abuse, domestic violence and other forms of trauma during their lifetimes. So a vital part of Lotus House’s approach is to work closely with each woman, who participates in developing, monitoring and revising her individual action plan with her counselor.
“I don’t call it getting a second chance, because most of these women never had a first chance. We educate and empower these special women to build a better way of life for themselves and their children.”
Constance Collins, President and Executive Director, Lotus House
Lotus House also operates a retail thrift shop, which supports the shelter by providing clothing for the women and children and furnishings they can use when they transition to their new homes. The store is staffed entirely by Lotus House guests and alumni, helping them gain much needed work experience and a “nest egg” for their future.
“Thank you deeply for thinking of us, and for the literally life changing and life saving support of the TD Charitable Foundation for some of the most vulnerable in our community.”
Anna Frusciante, Director, Lotus House
Now in its 10th year, Lotus House has welcomed more than 1,800 women and children since 2006. Starting with 34 “guests” in one building and very little staff, today Lotus House has several buildings and a wide network of staff and counselors – thanks to the support of companies like TD Bank. Affordable housing affects so many in our neighborhoods and we are proud to work with agencies like Lotus House to address this critical need.
The TD Charitable Foundation provided a US$100,000 grant to Lotus House to expand the capacity of its housing programs. With the funding, Lotus House has rehabilitated a nearby building to create more affordable housing units for special needs homeless women and youth who have young infants or are pregnant.
Since 2011, the TD Charitable Foundation has donated more than US$21 million to help create affordable housing for low- to moderate-income individuals across our U.S. footprint, including over $2.6 million in Florida.