“I want to be that support system. I want to bridge that gap. I want to be that shoulder the community can depend on.”
In 2020 Tramaine Eugene-Robinson and her family created the non-profit United 1st Steps with the mission to restore self- dignity and self-reliance, decrease homelessness and unite individuals in the community with the resources needed to take the first steps toward their education, career and housing stability.
“Our vision is to create independent and self-reliant individuals within our community,” Eugene-Robinson said, adding the organization’s reach extends throughout the River Region.
“My story started out in St. John Parish, and my husband’s family and my stepdad’s family is in St. James,” she said. “My husband and I live in St. Charles Parish … this is where we’re choosing to raise our family, so the River Parishes is our story.”
Eugene-Robin, a St. Rose resident, knows first-hand the struggles of poverty.
“When I was young my mom was a single mother of five children and she was depended heavily on family and friends,” Eugene-Robinson said. “She was considered the working poor. She always worked two or three jobs, but struggled just to keep up with the demand of children.”
United 1st Steps is composed of three sectors – transitional housing, a full-service restaurant and community empowerment.
Currently, the organization is focusing community empowerment. Scholarships for high school students, raffles and community events are all areas United 1st Steps has tackled. Eugene-Robinson said right now the organization is offering the delivery of a COVID-19 supply basket to anyone who may need it.
In the near future, Eugene-Robinson said she and her husband and four children are excited to offer transitional housing to those who need it most.
“We’re in the process of meeting with architects now to get plans for transitional housing apartments that we’re going to get built,” she said, adding the building will more than likely be located around Highway 90. “Our target areas are the homeless and those living in poverty … the working poor. We want to help single parents and families who are living in poverty … these are what I consider the outliers of the homeless and poverty community.”
Eugene-Robinson said the goal will be to help the people living in the transitional housing to grow beyond the need for government assistance. She said financial literacy courses, first time home buyer sessions and other educational modules will be required for those living in the housing.
“They’ll be taking steps towards transitioning their lives,” she said. “We’re setting up plans so when they transition out they’ll have a savings account and a career pathway. We want to transition them into independence and self-reliance.”
Eugene-Robinson said her family has self-funded every one of the organization’s projects up to this point.
“Everything we do we’re paying out of our pockets,” she said. “We’d love to raise awareness and get donations in.”
After the transitional housing is complete, Eugene-Robinson said the final step of the organization would be to create a restaurant that would serve to employee people and offer a steady stream of meals to the homeless.
“My goal is to not provide fish, but to teach everyone how to fish so they can feed themselves,” she said. “This is my calling. This is what I was put on this earth to do. This is God’s plan for me.”
For more information on United 1st Steps, or to donate or request a COVID-19 supply kit, visit www.united1ststeps.org or call 504-858-3635.