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Hero Warm Refuge Constance Collins of Lotus House never expected to be running a shelter to help women and children when she began her career, but her inability to see people in need and leave the call unanswered changed all that. T E X T BY CR IS T INA ZUA ZUA A homeless woman Constance Collins once saw bathing in the fountain of a building she was developing in South Florida many years ago shared with her that she was afraid of shelters, because as a woman she was a target. “Realizing how vulnerable women experiencing homelessness are on the street, I was inspired to find a way to launch a holistic shelter with support designed to address their gender-specific needs,” says Collins. And launch it she did. Today, as Director of the Lotus House Women’s Shelter, Collins makes it her daily mission to be fully present for those the shelter serves in every moment, helping guide the women, youth and children in the shelter to help them improve their situations. There have many powerful moments in the course of running Lotus House, and Collins remembers a story from the first year of the shelter’s operation: “Someone donated several packages of brand new socks to the shelter. For women who are homeless, new socks and shoes are a true luxury; people experiencing homelessness often walk for many miles each day in search of necessities and a bed for the night,” she says. “I handed out the socks, and there was an extra pair left. I pulled one middle-aged woman who had been on the street for many years to the side, quietly offering her the extra pair of socks. She thanked me kindly 48 but declined, pointing to another woman she knew who was also suffering. That day, I learned the true meaning of generosity.” Lotus House is unique in and of itself, something else that owes its identity to Collins’ vision. With lush gardens and holistic, enrichment activities ranging from art, music, zumba and a book club to acupuncture, meditation, yoga and massage therapy, Lotus House offers a holistic, trauma- informed sanctuary with comprehensive support services that help women and children heal, learn and grow, while improving the quality of their life on every level, the goal is that they may truly break the cycle of homelessness. Outside of Lotus House, Collins works tirelessly writing, fundraising, gathering volunteers and advocating for enlightened social policies addressing the needs of individuals experiencing homelessness, with the hope of replacing judgments, blame and stereotypes with support and resources that can help uplift those in need. “Each day, I’m inspired by the resiliency and perseverance of women and youth experiencing homelessness who have suffered unimaginable abuse to heal, forgive, let go and build the foundation for new lives for themselves and their children.”; Lotus House; 1514 NW 2nd Ave., Ste. 1; 305.438.0556; LotusHouse.org.