On January 24th, The Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce’s Women’s Business Council (WBC) presented Breakfast with a View at La Gorce Country Club. Approximately 120 attendees laughed, cried and were deeply inspired by Constance Collins Margulies, Founder and Executive Director for The Lotus House.
With a serene and humble demeanor, Constance shared how she went from being a very successful, high powered, wealthy attorney and real estate developer to the Founder of a shelter for homeless women and children. When asked what made her decide to “give it all up”, Constance smiled and said simply, “But I didn’t give up anything. On the contrary, I received so much more than I could have ever imagined.” Looking back on her life changing decision, Constance explained that one day she realized she “had enough”, and she decided to commit her life to making a difference for homeless women in our community. In June 2004, Constance formed the Sundari Foundation, a 501(c)(3), which created Lotus House: a free, non-denominational resource center and residential facility for homeless women in Overtown, one of the poorest neighborhoods in Miami. The facility was expanded a short time later to include pregnant women and infants because Constance was unable to turn these women away.
Named “Lotus House” after the lotus flower, a universal symbol of compassion, hope and enlightenment, its primary purpose is to support, uplift and empower poor, disadvantaged and homeless women and children to realize their dreams for a better future. In addition to free housing for up to a year or more if needed, 3 meals a day, clothing and other basic services, Lotus House also offers individual and group counseling, computer classes, job training and placement, medical and mental health services, and access to a wide range of community resources. Education workshops and many enrichment activities are also offered, such as art, creative writing, yoga, dance, nutrition, as well as alternative paths to healing and self exploration.
Constance explained that Lotus House is much more than just a physical shelter offering a “hand out”. The community and lasting friendships that develop help transform the women from feeling hopeless and isolated to embracing a real sense of family and emotional support. Lotus House provides a respectful, non-institutional, shared living environment with thoughtfully appointed living spaces for quiet reflection and art-filled community spaces to remind its residents they are all interconnected. The lushly landscaped gardens of Lotus House include a courtyard fountain and herb garden, lotus pond and walking path, offering a sanctuary for healing and sharing. The skills taught to the residents, allow them to be self sufficient and to embrace dignity and self respect, often for the first time in their lives.
The room was completely silent as attendees were also moved to tears when an alumni of Lotus House shared her powerful story of transformation. Rai Johnson candidly shared her past filled with the tragic murder of her only son, her personal struggles with addiction and the complete despair she felt …. then how Lotus House literally saved her life by providing the tools to change her thinking and her actions. Today Rai has her Bachelors Degree and is in graduate school at Barry University, while working as the current Director of Health Services for Lotus House. She is one of hundreds who have gone through Lotus House and have been empowered to realize their potential and change their lives. Rae emphasized the importance of treating their residents with dignity and respect and the value of listening without judgements.
Constance emphasized how grateful Lotus House is for the continued support and involvement they have received from the community, which allows them to provide all of these valuable services. It is only through this constant support that the powerful work of Lotus House can continue.
Residents of Lotus House also work and manage the Lotus House Thrift Store, which teaches them valuable retail skills in addition to providing clothing, furniture, and children’s items for the residents. The Thrift Store is located at 203 NW 36 Street in Miami.
To volunteer, offer donations, or any other form of assistance, you can call 305- 438-0556 or email “outreach@lotushouseshelter. org” Constance can be reached at “email@example.com” More information and photos can be found on their website lotushouseshelter.org