Help Miami’s Lotus House help homeless women

Angela Mouscardy inside the Lotus House’s courtyard, kisses her daughter, Angel, who was born at the shelter in Overtown.
Angela Mouscardy inside the Lotus House’s courtyard, kisses her daughter, Angel, who was born at the shelter in Overtown. cjuste@miamiherald.com

The news that Miami-Dade County may lose as much as $5 million in federal funds designated for providing beds for up to 700 homeless residents is the latest setback in our community’s quest to end homelessness.

For all the effort dedicated to lifting our neighbors off the street over the past decade, the fact remains that financial resources available to fight homelessness are under siege just as the problem deepens.

An annual homeless census conducted in 2016 found that close to 1,000 people were living on the streets of Miami-Dade County. Worse yet, there are more than 6,000 homeless students in the county.

While there is no silver bullet for solving our community’s housing challenges, a proposal now under consideration by the Miami Commission will go a long way toward providing a home and supportive services for the most vulnerable among us: Miami’s homeless women and children. Lotus House, the only shelter in Miami exclusively providing housing and wrap-around services for women and children, has served more than 1,800 guests over the past decade from its aging campus in Overtown.

Still, Lotus House is forced to turn away at least 2,000 people each year because its buildings are too small and on the verge of collapse.

Recognizing that more relief is needed, Lotus House has created a plan for upgrading and redeveloping its property with the goal of enhancing the facility’s local impact. The newly named Lotus Village will offer housing for an additional 240 individuals, a children’s wellness center and a host of services that will help residents transition out of homelessness.

Most important, the proposed development of Lotus Village will be financed through $25 million in private dollars — without a penny from the city of Miami or the Southeast Overtown/Park West CRA. The project is fully funded and shovel-ready, with a zoning amendment being the only barrier standing in the way of construction.

Plans for Lotus Village have won support from a diverse cross-section of our community, including nonprofits, area residents and businesses, churches and public and private organizations tasked with fighting homelessness. The project’s latest endorsement came from the Overtown Community Oversight Board, which is charged with protecting the interests of our immediate neighborhood.

History teaches us that there are no simple or inexpensive solutions to combating homelessness. Fortunately, a proven and cost-effective model for changing lives exists at Lotus House. At Miami Homes For All, we believe community collaboration and innovative solutions are essential to help us end homelessness. Lotus Village will be a holistic, state-of-the-art facility that will bring together multiple services in one centralized hub for its residents. We stand in partnership with several dozen organizations, residents, advocates, and groups calling for support for Lotus Village.

The City Commission should approve the vision for Lotus Village as it seeks to create a lasting positive impact in our community with zero public cost. The commission should seize this opportunity.

Barbara A. (Bobbie ) Ibarra, is executive director of Miami Homes for All, a coalition for the homeless.