Begin again with love - Inspiration from Lotus Village
“No matter what’s happened in your life, you can begin again with love.” –Constance Collins
It might take a village, but a village takes homes and to make a home it takes love. Love is what Constance Collins, President and Executive Director of Lotus Village in Miami, Florida starts with.
Lotus Village is a 100,000+ square-foot, five-story residential facility with expanded capacity to shelter approximately 500 women and children nightly, a therapeutic children’s wellness center, and neighborhood health clinic. Designed as a prototype for the future, this comprehensive mixed-use “village” combines state of the art shelter facilities and holistic, trauma-informed, supportive services. Together, Constance and Lotus Village are remaking the template for how a social services agency can most profoundly inspire positive change for homeless women and children.
When we asked Constance how homelessness is overcome by a fresh consideration of “home” she explained that home is more than a physical structure.
“Home is the foundation for everything we do at Lotus Village,” she told us. “It’s a place where a child feels safe. A sanctuary. A foundation to thrive in, within the larger world. In a home, a bed to sleep in is as important to prosperity in the world as food, education and health care are. If you lack a home, all else – job, career, health and well-being – are all jeopardized. A home is the most fundamental ingredient for a safe and secure life.”
“Home is the foundation for everything we do at Lotus Village"
Constance extends this same deep consideration to break out the cause and effect, (and by extension the solution) to homelessness for women and children.
“When you think about what it means to be a homeless woman, you have to know that nearly always, it’s because of violence,” she shared. “It is normative for homeless women and their children to be traumatized by some kind of violence. The result being that they’re forced to survive by being invisible. Homelessness is an escape from violence where women and children experience a loss of community and where all social ties are wrenched completely away. They are forced to ask ‘who am I without any of this?’ It’s especially important to consider what this does to children. There are more homeless children than adults who are growing up in non-normative shelter systems. For them especially, we need to create more enriched environments in order to break the cycle.”
Constance went on to explain the solution: “We create a respectful environment at Lotus Village that offers dignity and dissolves all judgement and stereotyping. We create a wraparound support system that tells you that your life matters. Lotus Village brings you out of the shadows of invisibility. We honor the precious gift of life and offer the ground to begin growing from again—a place to heal and begin a safer more prosperous future.”
The selection of a lotus blossom as the icon and namesake for Lotus Village was a conscious choice.
“The pink lotus flower is a universal symbol of compassion around the world,” she explained. “The lotus flower grows from the mud and darkness and blooms in the light. It’s a perfect metaphor for transforming our experience of a challenged human condition into a sweeter love – and a better consciousness of who we truly are.”
"When you receive wraparound love, care and nurturing, the natural reaction is to grow."
The wraparound support that Lotus Village provides isn’t limited to safe housing. It also includes an education center, an arts and activities lab, the Healing Hands salon, a dining pavilion and a working classroom kitchen. An innovative health and wellness center offers holistic body/mind/spirit practices that include acupuncture, yoga and meditation. When asked how homeless women and families are enriched by holistic practice, Constance replied: “When you have a history of trauma there is a tendency to withdraw in fear in order to survive. Holistic practices offer safe space for healing to occur which is most needed for anyone to begin again. These are alternative and valuable pathways to healing and their success is measured in the ultimate outcome: a 90% successful exit rate from Lotus Village. When you receive wraparound love, care and nurturing, the natural reaction is to grow. Our holistic practices are family orientated. Trauma breaks bonds of family attachment. Our practices bring mother and children together to heal and it rebuilds the bonds of attachment. Lotus Village is predicated on the belief that we are all one and profoundly interconnected. I don’t think about yoga as a pathway to self-improvement, but a pathway for our collective improvement.