Sharonee oversees all the amazing work happening at Lotus House, a shelter that provides housing to 500 women and children per night and helps them get back on their feet with impactful programming. Sharonee’s journey to a management position is unique— she originally sought shelter at Lotus House, took part in their program, and rose the ranks to become Operations Director.
What services does Lotus House provide?
Some programs are just for women, just for children, or to strengthen families. They address topics like employment, health, art, and therapy. There’s everything from arts and crafts classes for kids, a salon for women to get their hair done, and a thrift store that is all donation based. We offer internships for our adults to work in the thrift store so they can get retail experience, and later have the opportunity to be hired full time. The food we serve is all healthy and has plenty of vegan options. Our goal is to support these women as much as possible while getting them on their feet as quickly as possible. Our traditional programs run for around 6 months, but there’s plenty of women who stay with us for up to a year.
Can you explain your journey from being a Lotus House participant to an employee?
All members of the Operations Team are alumni of the shelter, which is a very unique experience. I actually participated in the program twice. The first time around, I wasn’t ready to give it my all and didn’t show my full potential. The second time, I was able to really get my act together and take advantage of the amazing resources Lotus House has to offer. I’ve been in so many shelters and have never experienced a place like this, it truly is a family. I started off working on housekeeping tasks, then took over front desk responsibilities, and then got promoted from there. I was able to climb the ladder quickly because I love my job and wanted to learn. It doesn’t feel like work because I love helping our women and children since I was once in their shoes.
What is your favorite part of your job?
I love being able to work with our women and children. When I get an email about a woman, or she is being talked about on our team, it makes me happy because I know that means we’re taking care of her and what she needs. It’s so rewarding to be part of a team that gives back to the place that gave us all so much. What I do everyday is somehow helping the lives of these women and children, and that makes it all worthwhile.
There’s not a lot of public discussion about the lack of shelter for women and children, can you talk about that issue?
A lot of women and children are left without shelter because of domestic violence. There are very limited resources available to domestic violence victims, maybe these women can use food stamps or afford a few hours of childcare, but it’s not enough to live a self-sufficient life. A lot of shelters don’t cater to the needs of their women and aren’t able to help them get back on their feet. At Lotus House, I’ve seen the difference in how we address this layered issue by helping women with their education and careers, not just giving them a temporary bed to sleep in.