Homeless Without Fear
Do you ever feel a deep desire to turn your aspirations into reality? I’m talking about a sustained yearning—not a flash moment of excitement or inspiration. Too often, I’m apprehensive about stepping off my ledge of comfort into the abyss of unknown essentially because of fear. I allow the strengths and talents that I’ve developed in my twenty-seven years to be overrun by just the mere thought of rejection and people’s lack of enthusiasm for my endeavors.
Unlike me, thirty-one year old Te-Erika Patterson, publisher of MySavvySisters.com, has taken a giant leap of faith. She has made a personal pledge and began a journey into voluntary homelessness to teach women to overcome the fear of failure. Through the REBUILD Your Life Project, Te-Erika plans to remain homeless in downtown Hollywood, Florida until thirty area businesses agree to participate in a job fair for homeless women. Her mission is to show women and the community that with ongoing determination and proper support, restoration is possible. Though her endeavor is grand, her objectives are simple. She seeks to:
- Demystify the homeless experience by raising awareness (via video and articles posted to Youtube, Facebook and My Savvy Sisters)
- Teach women that even if faced with the fear of homelessness or an extreme life transition, they can rebuild and prosper
- Showcase specific strategies for rebuilding your life
- Research, test, and showcase resources that are available to homeless and low-income citizens in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties
- Raise funds for a homeless shelter in the local community and future
My Savvy Sisters projects
- Raise funds for a grant that will pay three months rent and living expenses for a homeless woman
In preparation of this project, Te-Erika talked with her friends and family, namely her two sons*, to prepare them for her major transition. Next, she completed a massive downsize by selling or donating all of her possessions, limiting herself to a duffel bag of clothes, personal items, and a laptop and video camera to journal the experience. On April 11th, she left her studio apartment for street and shelter living. However, Te-Erika hasn’t had much luck with seeking refuge in public places. As she explained, “…my original plan was to sleep in a park and the authorities told me that I couldn’t.” The alternative is to spend nights at the Homeless Voice Homeless Shelter in Hollywood.
The act of “going homeless” is not new. Individuals of varying socioeconomic backgrounds have conducted personal, social, or academic experiments to gain first-hand understanding living as homeless. Te-Erika credits her intuition and passion for uplifting women as the impetus for this project. “I’m not making a huge sacrifice because I do not have much, but my real sacrifice is in not allowing myself the luxury of having a roof over my head so that I can show women what it’s like to lose everything.” After the first phase of the project ends, she will have no home to return to. “I am in the same situation that many in The Homeless Voice Homeless Shelter are in, trying to stay alive and making moves toward a better future. I was on the verge of homelessness myself…Instead of fighting against the fear and falling victim to it, I embraced the experience in order to eliminate the fear of it.”
As of April 17th, Te-Erika has garnered the support of two South Florida businesses/organizations: Denny’s Restaurant and The Homeless Voice Homeless Shelter. However, she is not deterred. She has partnered with the National Coalition To End Homelessness and The Homeless Voice Homeless Shelter to help facilitate the May 9th job fair. With $360 in donations and 28 businesses to recruit, Te-Erika spends “hours a day contacting businesses and inviting them to participate. Most say that they are not hiring at this time while others offer to review the information before making a commitment.” If she doesn’t garner the commitment of more businesses, she will proceed with the job fair and “determine that my mission was only partially a success.”
April 21st marks day #11 in Te-Erika’s journey. “One lesson that I have learned is that we are only as capable as our beliefs will allow us to be. Many of the people that I have met only see limited options for their return to working society and stability…I have no idea what will be the avenue that will allow me to have my own home again and a steady income, I still believe that it is possible…I speak to people as though I am a leader and I am in control of this experience and everyone tends to believe me. In reality, I am not. It is completely up to the goodwill of the people to help me to raise funds and be able to offer this grant to a single homeless woman.”
Sometimes, even when we choose to go against the grain, it’s within the comfy territory of social activism (such as writing a letter or attending an event or two) rather than more vigorous acts of civil disobedience, economic boycotts, or voluntary simplicity. We won’t risk our safety or livelihood for the sake of advocacy. It may be an unfortunate fact, but most revolutionary change is never void of bloodshed. At this point in my life, I don’t feel strongly enough for any issue to become a martyr or make extreme sacrifices. But, I’m training myself to be forthright in my principles and more vocal about issues that peak my passion.
I applaud Ms. Patterson for turning her words into action, and I hope that the REBUILD Your Life Project produces positive and sustainable effects in her life and the lives of others in which her outreach will benefit. I hope more people will join me in supporting Te-Erika in both spirit and deeds.
South Florida Nightly News Interview
*Te-Erika’s sons are well and taken care of by their father, an attorney in Ft. Lauderdale.
[This article can also be found on The FreshXpress. Visit FXP to post and read more comments.]