New studio at homeless shelter is ‘a dream come true’
MIAMI – Alana Johnson says she enjoys working collaboratively with other kids at Lotus House to find different ways to express themselves in a new recording studio that harnesses video, audio and photography to amplify the voices of residents.
“I know there is a lot of kids who can’t express themselves like they want to,” said Johnson, 14. “It’s helpful because I have been through a lot. ... My family is very different than other families.”
Lotus House is the state’s largest women and children homeless shelter. It houses approximately 500 women and children nightly. About 60% of the residents are children.
“This is really a dream come true,” Lotus House Founder and Executive Director Constance Collins said of the new “Lotus Village Voices Recording Studio” or “The Studio” for short.
“We know that women and children experiencing homelessness survive by being invisible. In this studio, we have the ability to elevate their voices, to bring women and children out of the shadows, a beautiful way of healing, and to explore their own creativity.”
The residents have produced videos and podcasts, and they also tell stories through poetry and still photography. Their first video was a “Wash your Hands” public service announcement in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rachel Spector of The Children’s Trust explained they paid for the project through their “Innovation Fund.”
The recording studio is the third project they have funded at Lotus House via the Innovation Fund.
Another is The Farm at Lotus House, a hydroponic garden in an 8x40 shipping container. The kids help grow fruits and vegetables and the women harvest the crops, which they then use in the kitchen for meals.
You can see the farm in the music video “Eat’cha Vegetables” that Johnson helped produce, advocating for kids to eat their vegetables.
“We are looking to find new ways to approaching services to improve the lives of women and families,” Spector said. She added that she “loved” the idea of The Studio because it gives women and children the ability to voice their experience.
“This is a lived experience and it will live on,” she said.
The recording studio has produced several “vodcasts” and podcasts, including:
Welcome to Lotus Village - with Constance Collins, introducing Lotus Village and its winding path to becoming the largest women’s shelter in the country and home to countless Lotus children since opening its doors.
Sharonee Delevante (Alumna Director of Operations and mother of a beautiful Lotus baby) describing her journey through Lotus House and the ways in which our child and family programming supported her and her child in times of need, as well as the contributions she personally makes today as a director.
They have several more episodes in production about to be released which will cover:
Education and Employment Center, specifically the Lotus Learning Pod for their school-age children
The hydroponic farm, through the eyes of children
The journey of one of their unaccompanied LGBTQ+ high school age youth through Lotus House
Lived experiences of alumni/staff mothers and their children
For more information about the studio, click here.