Lotus House: Oasis of Hope and Art in Miami

[Photo: Jacqueline Gedin]

This is Overtown, a tough neighborhood in Miami. Doors remain locked, blinds are down. You sense the eyes behind the windows but those on the street do not wave, smile or say hello. Fresh paint on a long, high fence indicates there is something different about a property. Once inside, gravel, trees, benches under the shade, a fountain and a talking parrot welcome you.

The women who come to Lotus House are those with nowhere else to go. This is a place of last resource for homeless women with special needs who have exhausted their stay at shelters and for homeless pregnant women and their new-born babies that require a hand up to find their way back into society. What they do not know when they arrive is that they have landed in a unique place where art is part of the healing process and creative leisure is a mandatory component of their stay.

It was here where Jacqueline Gedin recovered her long forgotten smile. After working hard to raise four children in a new country, an accident had her paralyzed for almost a year and then with permanent back problems. Alone and hopeless she had to accept the fact that she was disabled and homeless. She had been to several homeless shelters but after setting foot inside Lotus House she realized there was something different, she felt welcomed and loved.

Her smile came back gradually as she renewed her love of painting, where she portrays images of her native Haiti, and most of all when the parrot learned to repeat her name. She found a desire to live her life to the fullest and eventually transitioned to permanent housing. Jacqueline considers Lotus House "a breathtaking experience that should be a model for all others."

The idea for Lotus House began in June of 2004 when a successful realtor, Constance Collins Marguiles, couldn't sleep at the thought that although she was doing well financially there were homeless women fending for themselves on the streets of Miami. She created a non-profit organization and found a small number of friends willing to help her find and rehab a property to start a project that would help women struggling to make ends meet. In 2009 Lotus House received $53,000 in HUD funding through the Homeless Continuum of Care for 12 beds of their moms and babies program and they also received $107,000 from local tax funds, which really jump started the program.

Up to 50 residents and 16 infants have a new outlook on life. Ms. Marguiles would like to buy the building next door to expand a bit further because the need is so great that Lotus House is always at its full capacity. Ms. Marguiles still has to worry about money and resources to keep the program running but for the past five years she has been able to sleep well at night knowing that women in need now have hope through Lotus House.


Content Archived: July 8, 2011