The development of Lotus Village comes as Miami-Dade County contends with a growing homeless population, many of whom are children. In school year 2015-2016, Miami-Dade Public Schools identified 6,083 registered school-age children who are homeless, up from the prior year’s count of 4,592. Miami’s urban core, which incorporates Lotus House’s neighborhood, is home to the county’s largest concentration of homeless, many of whom are children and families.
“Lotus Village will be a role model for how cities can bring an end to homelessness with enriched shelter and support services that address the needs of the most fragile among us,” says Lotus House founder Constance Collins. “Our groundbreaking is a dream come true and an example of how collaboration can bring real change to a community. This day wouldn’t be possible without the help of our friends and sponsors. It truly takes a village. My hope is that the entire Miami community will support our cause by joining our sustainability campaign.”
More than 300 members of the community attended, including City of Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado, Miami-Dade Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, Miami-Dade Homeless Trust Chairman Ron Book and Miami-Dade County Deputy Mayor Russell Benford. Several Lotus House alumni who have transitioned to homes outside the shelter system welcomed attendees, including many children who were newborns at Lotus House.
Once completed, the five-story shelter will include a wellness center where guests can access primary care and restorative therapies such as massage and acupuncture; a health and dental clinic open to the community; an arts and activity lab; a computer library; a beauty salon; a vegetable garden; a children’s center and daycare; and a working classroom kitchen. A community pavilion will host book readings, films, performances, dance workshops and inspirational speakers.
Since opening in Overtown 10 years ago, Lotus House has welcomed thousands of women and children, including 128 newborns. Still, more than 2,000 homeless women and children are turned away annually due to lack of space.
The start of construction marks the launch of Lotus Endowment Fund’s campaign to raise $25 million for the shelter’s long-term sustainability. Bank of America, a long-time supporter of Lotus House, announced a $250,000 pledge for operational and programmatic support at the new shelter.
“Lotus Village will expand the reach, and related impact, doubling the number of homeless women, youth and children served as well as provide needed services to the overall Overtown community,” said Gene Schaefer, Miami market president, Bank of America.”
The team behind the Lotus Village project includes Robert Behar and Daniela Motta of Behar Font Architects; the legal team of John Sumberg, Vicky Leiva, Javier Aviñó and Steve Simon at law firm Bilzin Sumberg Baena Price & Axelrod LLP; George Truitt and Kevin Schumacher of Cole of Scott & Kissane P.A.; and Civic Construction Co.