By The New Herald
On Friday, Lotus House staff, women and children who live or have lived in the shelter and Miami-Dade officials gathered on the site where the building will stand to celebrate the start of construction.
Crystal Resper was seven months pregnant when she arrived at the Lotus House women’s shelter in Overtown.
She was 24 years old and had been left alone and homeless, carrying a girl in her womb, the last of four siblings.
In Lotus House she found much more than a roof. There she and her children were assigned a small apartment. She was trained to re-enter the workforce. And when it was time to look for a job, she provided childcare for her children.
“For the first time with my family I was able to feel what a support system was,” said Resper, who 13 months after arriving at Lotus, in 2008, she managed to move into another apartment and land a full-time job.
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Now the organization that helped Resper get ahead has broken ground on Lotus Village, a building that will serve as a shelter and community center and will include a daycare center, a holistic health clinic, a library with computers, and gardens for recreation and the healing The project will cost about $25 million.
On Friday, Lotus House staff, women and children who live or have lived in the shelter and Miami-Dade officials gathered on the site where the building will stand to celebrate the start of construction. Lotus Village is expected to open in December 2017. The shelter currently serves nearly 190 people, but demand is much higher and each year more than 2,000 people who knock on the shelter’s doors asking for help cannot be helped.
With the new building, the administrators hope to increase the number of residents to 350 and provide more services for others who do not live in the shelter.
“[Lotus House] is an oasis and represents a second chance for many people to get their lives back on track,” said Miami-Dade County Assistant Mayor Russell Benford.
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As officials gave their speeches and Constance Collins, the founder of Lotus House, thanked the entities that have helped the shelter over the years, Resper looked out over the vacant lot and conjured up memories of her daughter Latrice’s first home, now he is 8 years old.
Resper is now an administrator at Lotus House.
“It’s so weird for me to see him like this. There in that place there was an old pink building, which we used as a kitchen, ”she said, pointing to a corner of the land. “It has never stopped being like a home. In 2013 I came because my daughter wanted to see the place where she was born, at that time she was out of work, it occurred to me to ask Constance [Collins] if she had a job and she hired me”.
In January, the Miami City Commission unanimously approved waiving the organization from zoning permit fees to begin construction.
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“This is a day to recognize what is good in our community,” Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado said during the ceremony on Friday.
Lisa Bergstrom, 50, said the Lotus community saved her life. Bergstrom was homeless and addicted to drugs and alcohol. She entered a recovery program and Lotus House soon after.
“I felt alone in the world and I had no one who loved me. She had no family,” said Bergstrom, who was left homeless at age 12 when her mother kicked her out of her Michigan home. “I had no contact with my family for almost 30 years, but today I understand that my mother was dealing with her own problems and brokenness.”
In June, Bergstrom spoke to her mother by phone after 29 years of no communication, shortly before she died.
“He knew that she was in the Lotus House, that she was sober and that I lead a healthy life,” said Ella Bergstrom, who is now independent and lives in an apartment with her cat Luna de Ella. “And for the first time in my life my mom told me that she loved me and that she was proud of me.”