Faces of Resilience | News | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Faces of Resilience

Rhonda Owens

Editor's Note: As part of our coverage on gun-homicides this summer, City Paper will be featuring members of the communities where these shootings occur.

A few blocks from where an unnamed 20-year-old was shot and killed on Tues., June 2, sits Righteous Beginnings, a daycare center started by Rhonda Owens eight years ago. Owens is a staple of the Homewood-Brushton community. She's lived in the neighborhood for thirty-three years.

The Police Bureau's annual report will tell you that Zone 5 has the most crime of any zone in the city, but for Owens, it's more than a statistic “This place is my home. I live here. I see what's going on every day,” she says.

Despite her love of Homewood, Owens is well accustomed to the neighborhood's problems. She wasn't aware of the June 2 shooting, but also wasn't surprised. While Owens has grown accustomed to the violence in her neighborhood, that doesn't mean it doesn't affect her.

“It’s frightening. If I have my air-conditioner on, it blocks out the gunshots. If I have my window open, I can hear everything,” Owens says. “I hear the drug addicts in the night. I call the cops all the time. It's sad.”

click to enlarge Rhonda Owens waits for students at the bus stop - PHOTO BY REBECCA NUTTALL
Photo by Rebecca Nuttall
Rhonda Owens waits for students at the bus stop
Two days after the shooting, Owens is waiting at the bus stop with her grandson to escort kids from the stop to the daycare center. The bus stop sits at the corner of Brushton and Hamilton, a street Owens says is a drug hotspot.

“It's quiet out here now,” says Owens. “But even when they're out here, they don't mess with me.”

To combat the drug activity, Owens is doing her part to urge the city to tear down vacant houses in the area. Two houses around the corner from her were recently demolished, and she's working on another directly across the street from her home.

“The house across the street: I'm fighting to get it torn down. Kids break in, adults break in and get high,” Owens says. “There's only so much we can do.”

Owens is also doing her part with Righteous Beginnings. The daycare and learning center for kids up to 12-years-old is an asset to the community, boasting a community garden and education programs. Owens says she does her best to shield her children from the world outside, but it does creep in.

“Just like schools do fire drills we do other kinds of drills as well,” says Owens. “We do shooting drills.” 

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