Dream to be a difference maker

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 17, 2021

ST. ROSE — Tramaine Eugene-Robinson is on a mission to help individuals living in poverty take their first steps toward education, housing and career stability.

Founded in March 2020, United 1st Steps Nonprofit Inc. offers services in St. Charles, St. John the Baptist and St. James parishes. Through a three-sector approach focusing on transitional housing, employment opportunities with benefits, and community empowerment, Eugene-Robinson hopes to make a difference in her community.

“If we can get those three areas under control in a person’s life, then we can potentially restore their dignity and help them become more self-reliant,” Eugene-Robinson said.

Homelessness and poverty have always been close to her heart.

“My mom was a single mother, and she had five children. After watching her struggle, I just want to be that help that she needed as a single mom having to work two or three jobs to support her family,” Eugene-Robinson said. “She made too much to where she didn’t qualify for assistance, but not enough to take care of a family of six.”

Eugene-Robinson also had to navigate the financial burden of getting injured at work six months after giving birth to twins. There was no assistance available for her family while her husband was the only one working because he earned $100 too much.

“I want to be that bridge, that gap for the working poor or those living in poverty. There are people working and trying to make a difference, but they don’t have that helping help to offer them resources,” Eugene-Robinson said.

United 1st Steps will offer transitional housing to help individuals gain control of their finances and transition to a successful future. Individuals will live in a United 1st Steps apartment complex for 24 months. During this time, they will pay 10 percent of their income towards rent, save 10 percent of their income, and attend financial literacy classes and first-time homebuyer programs. The United 1st Steps team will also help them further their education, whether it involves attaining their GED or enrolling in trade school.

At the end of the two years, the individuals should be able to attain stable housing. United 1st Steps is also looking into renting two or three houses to begin the process while the apartments are under construction.

The organization recently partnered with A Safe Space of St. Charles to offer transitional housing to survivors of domestic violence.

Within the next year or two, Eugene-Robinson hopes to open a full-service restaurant to offer employment opportunities with benefits. Positions with benefits will also be available through the nonprofit organization, allowing individuals to make their physical and mental health a priority.

“I can give you a house and I can give you a job, but if you’re not healthy enough to actually work, you will lose your job and your house,” Eugene-Robinson said.

The third sector of United 1st Steps involves community empowerment through mock interviewing, resume building, health screenings and opportunities to give back to area residents.

United 1st Steps is currently engaged in a COVID-19 collection drive. Donations are being delivered to the elderly and children with underlying medical conditions to keep them safe at home and lower the risk of contracting an infection.

The following items are needed: Soap (hand and body), Towels (face, hand, body), Hand Sanitizer, Lysol Disinfectant Spray, White Vinegar, Thermometers, Masks and Face Shields, Gloves, Medication for fever, Tissue, Paper Towels, Dishwashing Liquid, Bleach, Clothes and Detergent.

Since United 1st Steps is a 501c3 nonprofit organization, all donations are subject to tax deductions. Those in need of donations can text 504-858-3635 to arrange a delivery.

Members of the United 1st Steps Board of Directors are passionate about elevating their brothers and sisters in the community. Board member LaTanya Eugene-Washington said, “I’m a part of this organization because I’m a part of this community. We share the same values and beliefs.”

Another board member, Caegan Jackson, looks forward to making an impactful difference in her community and those surrounding it.

Audrey Robinson-Roy was drawn to the United 1st Steps Executive Board because she believes people share an innate responsibility to care for one another during times of need.

“I am a big believer in having a community as a family, and when one hurts, we all hurt. United 1st Steps is designed to help homeless, abused, children and the hungry. We are here to help guide you on the path that may have become hard to travel,” Robinson-Roy said. “With the resources we are partnered with, we can put a smile on a family’s faces; have a man feel whole again with clean clothes and a job; feed a person that won’t usually eat in a day. We as homosapiens have to be each others’ keeper and come together.”

Stay up to date with ongoing initiatives by visiting www.united1ststeps.org or follow the organization on Instagram (@united_1st_steps) and Facebook (United 1st Steps Nonprofit, Inc).

Donations may be sent to the organization’s PayPal at 1ststep20@gmail.com. All checks and money orders should be made out to United 1st Steps Nonprofit, Inc. and mailed to 228 Janet Drive, St. Rose, LA 70087.

For more information, call 504-858-3635 or email 1ststep20@gmail.com.