April 6, 2010. That day changed Tyisha Shields’ life forever. It was a day of new beginnings and the day she decided to take control of her life. It was the day she came to the Drueding Center.
A branch of Holy Redeemer Health System, the Drueding Center is located at 413 W. Master St. and serves as place for homeless women and their children to restart their lives. Many of the women who enter the center have been victims of domestic abuse or drug addiction.
Her story is similar to other women who come to the center. Shields, then 19, had been living with someone whom she called “her mentor” or godmother, someone who she thought she could trust. That was until the night she discovered that she was being kicked out of the only home she knew.
Newly homeless and faced with the unknown Shields drifted around amongst friends for a week that Shields is only able to describe as “hell.”
She was not raised by a family who gave her much direction and at the age of 18 decided to drop out of high school, only a few months before graduation. Once she was kicked out by her godmother, Shields found out how hard it was to find a job without a high school diploma. With no source of income and no relatives or friends to stay with she found herself in a homeless shelter.
As can be expected, Shields was nervous about becoming part of the shelter system and only went because she had run out of options.
“I didn’t exactly know what to do, but I didn’t have anywhere else to go,” Shields said. “So that was my last resort. I cried for days.”
After staying in shelters for a few months Shields discovered that she was pregnant. Faced with the responsibility of caring for another human being she decided that she had to start getting her life in order.
Four days after her daughter was born, Shields moved into the Drueding Center.
Shields’ daughter Tahlia was the driving force behind her decision to get off the streets and take action.
“I had stopped caring about doing anything with my life,” Shields said.
The first step to turning her life around began when she entered the Drueding Center.
Residents of the center receive their own apartment and share kitchen facilities. This is a big step up from the single beds Shields was used to in the shelter system.
“Since I’ve been here I’ve been happy compared to where I came from. The women were disrespectful,” Shields said. “This place is 10 times better.”
The center also provides tenants with numerous educational and occupational resources. While living there Shields has been able to take advantage of these programs and has since earned her GED. Within the past six months she was also able complete courses for her nursing assistant certificate.
Although she is still looking for full-time work, Shields has realized that without the help of the Drueding Center she would not be where she is today.
“So many positive things that have happened since I’ve been here that I wouldn’t have been able to achieve out there,”
She is not the only one to notice the progress that has been made over the past year. Anne-Marie Collins, executive director at the Drueding Center, has worked with Shields for the past year and has watched her independence and confidence grow.
“I know that we played a role to be able to give her the stability that she needed to move forward with her life and to provide that she wanted for her and her daughter,” Collins said. “That’s what makes you get up in the morning.”
Shields said she wants to encourage other women who may be facing challenges similar to hers to step up and seek help. Too many do not realize that there are places for women like the Drueding Center.
Not all women are as successful as Shields and while it disappoints her, she said she refuses to let them bring her down.
“People get upset, depressed, miserable, but if I get to that point I just keep to myself or talk to somebody about it,” Shields said.
Women can stay at the center for 18 to 24 months. During this time the center tries to find them permanent housing to move into.
“I should be receiving my housing in the next couple of weeks,” Shields said.
Having a place to call her own will be the next chapter of Shields’ life and that of her daughter.
“I’m doing all of this for my daughter,” Shields said. “I don’t want her to ever end up in my situation.”