MIAMI – Exhilaration filled the air at Miami City Hall Thursday, as about 50 representatives from the Lotus House saw their dream come true.
The city commission unanimously approved a zoning exception and waivers that will allow a $25 million expansion and redevelopment of the Lotus House shelter for homeless women and children in Overtown.
It was the fifth time that this was put before the Miami city commissioners, making Thursday's vote that much sweeter for its members, who shared plenty of hugs and cheers upon learning of the vote.
Neekisha Darasaw, a representative of the Lotus House who also has been helped by the group's services, knows just how much of a difference the vote will make in the lives of many women and children.
"I was in the streets and life just completely fell apart for me," Darasaw said. "Lotus House opened their arms to me and welcomed me in. They believed in me when I didn't believe in me, and they still believe in me. I cannot explain the excitement. The adrenaline is overwhelming. They can finally begin their new journey now. We fought so hard for this and anything worth having is worth fighting for."
Lotus House is the only shelter in Miami exclusively providing services for women and children. The shelter, which annually serves more than 450 people, has been in desperate need of renovation after opening its doors in 2006.
Because of its current condition and size, it is estimated that the Lotus House must turn away about 2,000 people each year. Now, their services can be expanded to help many more women and children in need.
"Lotus House provides a great service to our community," said Miami Commission Chairman Keon Hardemon, "It's an agency that's important to the fabric of Miami. I believe that them having the ability to serve more people will benefit those in the program and the city of Miami. Passing this item is something that will be remembered for a very long time."
Although this capped a long, hard fight, an exuberant Darasaw said the best has yet to come.
"This just the beginning. Come and see us in about two more years," she said.
Article written by Local 10 News intern Jordan Gulkis.