Women of Wynwood: Creating Jobs, Clean Streets, and Cash Bars

When describing her seemingly unglamorous and difficult job -- maintaining Wynwood's streets -- Glendina Roseborough said, "it is rewarding, because it gives me my independence back." Before last year, she struggled to find employment and soon found herself without a home. Now, only a year later, she's thriving, along with Shawntina Jones, as employees of Women of Wynwood or WOW. 

These women tirelessly keep clean the low-income warehouse-turned-arts district, a growing yuppie hot-spot. You may have spotted their bright pink uniforms at one of the Second Saturday Art Walks. The ladies have been employed with WOW for almost a year, and are both former residents of Lotus House Shelter, which provides women and children in need with a safe and nurturing place to live, heal, and learn. Also located in Wynwood, Lotus House provides its residents with positions at its thrift store, healthcare, job training, and arts activities such as creating writing, beadwork, and other handiwork.

In 2009, over 100 female community leaders and activists joined their powers of influence and fundraising skills to form WOW. Inspired by a community beautification program, Soho Partnership in New York, this new alliance has changed the face of Wynwood by generating jobs as well as securing, lighting, and cleaning its streets. Thea Goldman, the former co-owner of Joey's, is co-founder of WOW, current Lotus House employee, and proponent of cash bars at art walks (asking that 20% of profits from drinks go back into the Wynwood community). As she says, "There is strength in numbers, especially in hard times."

Originally designed as a job for eight women, only Jones and Roseborough remain. By the time Jones was hired to work with WOW, she was already living in a private residence, returning to Lotus House as a volunteer in order to keep in touch with where she came from. Currently living in Overtown with her children, Jones also enjoys attending art walk, which allows her to meet the different people who enjoy the fruits of her labor. They each wear bright pink shirts so next art walk, ask them for directions or give thanks.

Roseborough also no longer lives at Lotus House, but, of her time there, she said, "the staff was very helpful, they go out of their way to help women who are trying to get ahead and get back on their feet." Recently, the shelter's founder Constance Collins-Margulies gave her the money and support necessary to attend driving school. She is now a proud, licensed driver.

Surprisingly, in a time of serious economic distress, a poor community with the help of privilege has gotten a workout and a facelift by combining brains and skills, becoming a place of great generosity. But the program is still in need of funding in order to expand and survive. Call 305-576-4780 and email [email protected] 
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Liz Tracy has written for publications such as the New York Times, the Atlantic, Refinery29, W, Glamour, and, of course, Miami New Times. She was New Times Broward-Palm Beach's music editor for three years. Now she plays one mean monster with her 2-year-old son and obsessively watches British mysteries.
Contact: Liz Tracy