Sundari Foundation is formed by a passionate group of volunteers committed to providing sanctuary, support, education, tools and resources for women and children experiencing homelessness.
Foundation identifies the first building for acquisition in the heart of Overtown, the historic African American district, one of the poorest neighborhoods in Miami and one of the poorest large cities in the United States. The building is acquired in September and renovation proceeds swiftly, despite the challenges of both hurricane Wilma and Katrina. It is named “Lotus House,” after the pink lotus flower which is the universal symbol of compassion.
Lotus House opens its doors on March 1st, quickly reaching its capacity of 34 “guests” as word spreads on the streets. The shelter is staffed by its volunteer director and founder, one resident manager, a part-time counselor and a dedicated core group of volunteers. Groceries are purchased at the local store and all meals are made on-site in a small efficiency kitchen by staff and guests of the shelter.
By the fall, the Foundation identifies its second building for acquisition to expand its programming to include a special maternity program for homeless pregnant women and their infants. Renovations begin.
In March, Lotus House opens the doors of its new maternity building, specially designed and equipped to meet the needs of homeless, pregnant women and their newborn infants and toddlers. With the addition of its new Maternity Program, Lotus House now houses up to 65 women and children on a daily basis.
In December, the Lotus Endowment Fund, Inc. is formed to ensure that Lotus House and other initiatives of the Foundation will serve as a resource for generations to come. It is operated exclusively to benefit the shelter and other initiatives of the Foundation and provides the capital funds needed for acquisition, renovation, expansion and launch of new programs and facilities of the Foundation. The Endowment Fund leases to the Foundation all of Lotus House facilities for $1/year.
Renovation of a two-story, 1920’s duplex situated between the two residential buildings is completed and opened as a community center for the growing Lotus House campus. The center includes a professional teaching kitchen and community rooms for expanded programming, including group counseling, yoga, acupuncture, dance, game and movie nights, and a “baby and me” play corner.
Foundation opens a thrift store, now operated by its wholly owned subsidiary Lotus House Thrift, LLC, which supports the shelter by providing much needed clothing for women and children, furnishings as they make the transition to their new homes, and basic job readiness and retail job training programs. It is managed and staffed entirely by Lotus House guests and alumni!
Foundation renovates a portion of its original building and launches a new health and wellness clinic, operated by its wholly owned subsidiary Lotus Wellness Center, LLC. Entirely free, it is a “Good Samaritan” clinic formed under the auspices of the Health Department of the State of Florida and staffed entirely by volunteers, including the teaching doctors and medical students of the DOCS program of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. The clinic serves as an important resource not only for the women sheltered at Lotus House and its alumni, but for uninsured, indigent women from the Overtown neighborhood.
Foundation opens its third residential building to expand its Children and Families Program, bringing the number sheltered each day by Lotus House to over 110! Lotus House is serving over 68,000 meals and providing over 40,000 shelter bed nights annually.
Lotus Endowment Fund, Inc. acquires a building in the nearby Jackson Health District to expand the activities of Lotus House Thrift, LLC, including a donations center and house the Lotus House Thrift, LLC together with its job training programs, including retail and barista job training. Renovations commence for a planned opening in 2013. Lotus House has served over 1200 women and children to date, including over 270 children. We are the proud mother to over 85 newborns who will someday call Lotus House their first home!
Lotus Endowment Fund, Inc. acquires, renovates and leases to Lotus House a fourth residential building specially designed and equipped to house its Youth Program, including young women ages 17-24 (and their infants in some cases) in high school (or its equivalent) and/or vocational training preparing to move onto college and careers. With the addition of the Youth Program, Lotus House houses over 160 women, youth and children on a daily basis, and keeps on growing in response to the enormous unmet need for trauma-informed shelter and support for women and children in our community.
After extensive research and staff training, Foundation adopts evidence-based counseling modalities that will provide valuable insight into the special needs of the homeless women and children we serve, supporting our policy and advocacy goals for greater awareness, social inclusion and resources for homeless women and children.
Lotus House continues to grow, opening a fifth residential building in the neighboring Wynwood Arts district. Lotus House is now sheltering over 180 women, youth and children on a daily basis. Still, Lotus House is turning away over 2000 women and children each year due to lack of space.
Responding to the enormous unmet need for trauma-informed shelter and support for women and children in our community, Lotus Endowment Fund, Inc. begin to acquire additional parcels of land adjacent to the Lotus House main campus with the goal of redeveloping and expanding the aging facilities of the main Lotus House Campus to add additional capacity. After extensive work, Lotus Village is conceived as a state of the art, comprehensive new facility designed to prevent and end homelessness. Lotus House is now sheltering over 250 women, youth and children daily. It is a proud mother to 125 newborns and counting!
The final parcels of land needed for expansion and redevelopment are secured, site and construction plans prepared, public hearings for rezoning fought and thanks to hundreds of passionate supporters, won unanimously. Financing obtained by Lotus Endowment Fund and its subsidiary, Lotus Village Development, LLC, for the Lotus Village project, and construction begins. Lotus House moves into nearby temporary facilities rented in the Overtown neighborhood, with a new lease in place for Lotus Village upon its completion. Finally, on the morning of September 15th, Lotus Village broke ground in a heartwarming celebration awash with love and pink!!
Lotus House exits the last building of its former campus in the temporary buildings in the neighborhood in January and begins the countdown to completion. In record time with the help of our entire village, Lotus Village Development, LLC completes construction of the ground and second floors of Lotus Village in time for the Singles Women’s Program to move in on New Year’s Eve. There were tears of joy for our new beginning.
Lotus House launches a ground breaking, service-driven research project on the developmental, social and emotional wellbeing, and trauma histories of children experiencing homelessness, assessing each child at Lotus House and offering evidence-based child and family therapies. Florida International University is our research partner.
Lotus House moves the rest of the shelter into Lotus Village by the end of January 2018. Programming expands into each new space as completed and more women and children arrive daily.
By April 2018, the Micky and Madeleine Arison Family Foundation Children’s Wellness Center is open, including six classrooms for up to 48 infants and toddlers operated by United Way Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Education, supported by evidence-based assessments and child and family therapies offered by Lotus House therapists and clinical team.
In August 2018, Jessie Trice Community Health Systems opens a neighborhood health clinic in Lotus Village, offering women’s and pediatrics health care, dental care, and a special men’s health initiative.
In October 2018, Lotus House launches a second research project with Florida International University on the gender-specific experiences of homeless women, both in shelters and on the streets, and effective solutions to address their unique needs.
In addition to realizing our long awaited dream for our new comprehensive homeless facilities tailored to meet the needs of the women, youth and children we shelter, Lotus Village promises to be a center for innovation, best practices, research, shared learning, and development of public and social policies to advance the status of women, youth and children to end and prevent homelessness on a national level.
Lotus House more than doubled their capacity and is now the largest women’s shelter in the state of Florida and top 5 of the nation sheltering up to 480+ women, youth, and children nightly.
By some estimate, 2.5 million children across America will have no place to call home this year. Most are newborns to the age of 6, a time when they are most vulnerable and the potential for neural development is at its fastest.
The children first principle is evident throughout Lotus Village with child-friendly furnishings in community rooms, the intake sanctuary, art and activities lab, a children’s playroom and gardens that all lead into a central pavilion buzzing with activities for children. Every aspect of Lotus Village was designed with the needs and wellbeing of children in mind, best practices for a trauma informed healing environment with strong protective factors for children to learn, grow, thrive and succeed.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic affecting our community, our nation and our world, Lotus House Women’s Shelter is coping like most families, working hard to make its home safe for the 480+ women, youth and children they are blessed to shelter each night. With the demands of what is beginning to feel like a new normal and what may follow in its wake, Lotus House has had to make many adjustments to its daily operating protocols and supportive services to ensure the safety and health of the most vulnerable members of the Miami-Dade community, many women, youth and children with compromised immune systems. We anticipate that many of these organizational changes being implemented will remain for the foreseeable future.
Foundation leadership and staff have been working hard to ensure that all local and state government guidance is followed. Our comprehensive CORONAVIRUS EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS AND RESPONSE PLAN has been developed and is being continuously updated as events and circumstances change.
Lotus House has hired more Operations team members to focus on increased sanitation protocols; Public Health Nurses to manage screening of current guests, new guests and staff, assure linkages to health care, and enhance its overall public health education and programing; additional Program Services team members to assist with increased home-school and programmatic activities for children of all ages, given school and childcare closures; and additional Culinary team members to help with the increase in meals served daily due to school closures and loss of employment by program participants working in hospitality, food service, retail and other businesses now closed.