A Place Called Providence

Monday, April 04, 2005

When sisters Tosha and Tamesha Robinson of Shreveport walked in the door of Providence House two years ago with their two babies, they had no home, no jobs and no plan. After spending a night at the Salvation Army emergency shelter, they hoped this transitional shelter for families that is always full might somehow have a place for them.

[Photo 1: Tosha and Sade]
Tosha and Sade

Incredibly, it did. Tosha, with her 2-year-old, and Tamesha, with her 2-month-old, had come the same day two openings occurred. They moved in, thankful to have somewhere to lay their heads. There they were safe, their children fed and they could plan. "You can't think when you don't know where you and your baby are going to sleep," Tosha said.

A transitional shelter for families with a structured program to promote independence, the program is funded in part by HUD Continuum of Care Homeless Assistance grants. Providence House life was difficult at first with so many rules and stringent disciplinary requirements plus the lack of privacy. But their children kept them focused. "You owe this to them," Tosha said. "You have to humble yourself when you see your baby looking at you."

Tamesha had a cosmetology license but wanted something better. Tosha had dropped out of high school in the ninth grade. Linda Wells, director of programs at Providence House, encouraged the Robinsons to return to school instead of just settling for a low-paying job. "They wanted to work the program. They had goals," she said.

Wells convinced Tamesha to enroll at Southern University to work toward a degree. Even though she wouldn't be earning much money through work-study, Tamesha said she realized the sacrifice would allow her to get a better job later. Meanwhile, Tosha started on her GED. She drew strength from the professional women she saw working at Providence House. "These diplomas got them in these suits."

[Photo 2: Tamesha and Daija]
Tamesha and Daija

In March, Tosha and Tamesha Robinson walked across the graduation stage with heads held high and halfway to a college degree. Tamesha, 27, has finished her core curriculum and will transfer to Wiley College's satellite campus to finish her business degree. Tosha, 25, got her GED in eight months then enrolled at Southern. She will transfer to LSU-Shreveport in the fall to finish her communications major. "I know that God has a plan for my life. I didn't know that a year ago," says Tosha.

Their daughters, now 4 and 2, have flourished at Providence House's child development center.
Tosha said her confidence is having an effect on her daughter. "When she says 'I can't,' I say 'yes, you can.'"

They both see great changes in each other. "My sister became a more powerful woman," Tamesha said. "She is who she was supposed to be. She believed in God first and then believed in herself." Similarly, Tosha has high praise for her older sister. "It brought the woman out in her. She is more confident, secure and sure of herself."

Two years later, Wells sees two poised, professional young women and expects great things of them. The Robinson sisters have their own big dreams as well: owning homes and a business and giving back to the community that helped them succeed. "These people that give of the money they worked for to provide a place for me and my baby -- that means something," Tosha said. "They changed my daughter's life." "This isn't a commercial. My life is changed. And I thank God for every person that helped."

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