Lotus House, a nonprofit shelter in Miami’s historic Overtown district, is growing its suite of supportive services with the creation of a “Children’s Village” designed by Behar Font & Partners that will feature deeper educational supports and programming for children and youth of all ages, community support facilities, therapeutic and social services, and a long awaited playground. The Children’s Village will also serve as home to other community-based nonprofits, offering an array of resources and programming for children and youth and their families in Overtown and surrounding neighborhoods.
The Children’s Village will come to life directly across the street from Lotus Village, the organization’s state of the art shelter which opened its doors in 2017. Lotus Village currently serves up to 500 women and children nightly through an evidence-based model that has set a national standard for the delivery of wrap-around services to women and children experiencing homelessness, many of whom are victims of domestic violence. The new building will comprise five floors housing classrooms, supportive services and resources for children and youth of all ages from within Lotus Village and the surrounding community.
The nonprofit’s expansion is made possible through Lotus Village II, LLC’s recently completed $3.5 million acquisition of five parcels of land located at NW 14th Terrace and NW 2nd Avenue. The total project cost is estimated to be $20 million, which will be funded through a combination of philanthropic gifts and financing arranged by Lotus Endowment Fund, Inc. Lotus Endowment has launched a capital campaign to raise the private funds needed to build, operate, and maintain The Children’s Village at Lotus Village.
Development of The Children’s Village represents a natural next phase for Lotus House, filling critical gaps and expanding essential therapeutic and educational supports for both the children and youth they shelter and those who live nearby. Currently, children aged newborn to three access the United Way Center for Early Education and Childcare housed within the shelter. The Children’s Village will continue that educational continuum and provide enriched supports through the pre-school years and beyond, including high school.
“When it comes to ending homelessness among our youth, ensuring access to education and the socialization that comes with it is just as essential as providing food, healthcare, and shelter. I am often reminded that play is children’s work. Play is how children learn, express themselves creatively, develop strong social and emotional skills, explore and discover the world around them. The Children’s Village will offer therapeutic services, educational support, diverse programming, and a creative environment for the children and youth of Overtown, including those sheltered at Lotus House, equipping them to succeed in school and life,” says Constance Collins, Executive Director of Lotus House.
“By co-locating with other non-profits within The Children’s Village, we are establishing a new model for unprecedented collaboration, community engagement, cooperation, and holistic support for children and families. The pandemic has exacerbated so many inequities, gaps, and needs in our community, particularly for the children and youth we shelter. With our community’s generous support, The Children’s Village will make many more dreams come true here in the heart of Overtown,” she added.
Since launching in 2006, Lotus House has sheltered more than 9,000 women, youth and children experiencing homelessness, with more than 80 percent of the shelter’s guests successfully exiting the shelter system and achieving greater financial self-sufficiency. More than providing a sanctuary, Lotus House offers holistic support services including restorative therapies for children and adults, job readiness training, employment assistance, life skills training, early childhood education, medical and mental health services, and more. Together, these tools empower women and children to heal, transform, and achieve greater self-sufficiency.
Undeterred by the pandemic, Lotus House served a record-breaking number of people last year, sheltering 1,526 women, youth, and children through December of 2021. Lotus Village has invested heavily in operational protocols aimed at ensuring the health and well-being of shelter guests – from deep cleaning protocols to investments in UV light technology that eliminates airborne bacteria. The shelter also introduced programs and therapies to assist children and adults in adapting to the realities of the pandemic. Shelter guests have had access to weekly COVID-19 testing and vaccine administration onsite.
Creation of The Children’s Village will be made possible by the support of Lotus Endowment Fund, Inc, a non-profit foundation that supports Lotus House and its initiatives. The development will benefit from the continued in-kind support of general contractor Civic Construction; engineers M2E Consulting, Inc.; law firm Bilzin Sumberg, where a team of attorneys including Sara Barli Herald, Brittany Chung, Enza Boderone, Brianna Sainte and Howard Nelson is spearheading all facets of acquisition, financing, zoning and permitting; and construction attorneys at Cole Scott Kissane, among others.