Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Deciding to become homeless

Here's a recent article I did on a woman who decided to become homeless to face her fears. Enjoy(from The Florida Courier)

South Florida woman becomes homeless on purpose to overcome fear of failure

Written by Fcadmin | 28 February 2012

Te-Erika Patterson is in a better place, financially and physically than she was just 10 months ago.

Te-Erika Patterson sold all her belongings and became homeless in
April 2011

Patterson, 32, of Hollywood, Fla., sold all of her belongings and became homeless on April 11, 2011. She joined the reported other 56, 771 homeless men, women and children in Florida (as of 2011) but documented her journey on YouTube and turned it into a project.
The Rebuild Your Life Project is dedicated to helping women overcome their fears of failure by showing them how to survive and restart their lives. Patterson described herself and her life up until April as a perpetual failure.  In the events leading up to the day she decided to give everything away, Patterson struggled to survive – losing her car, both of her jobs and dropping out of graduate school.
“My world was crumbling all around, and I was trying to figure out what to do next,” Patterson said. “I just kind of stood still for a while.”

From grad school to homelessness
Patterson, who grew up in a predominately Black neighborhood in Miami’s Liberty City earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Florida in 2004. She then took classes toward her master’s in marriage and family counseling at Barry University but never finished.
One of the requirements for completion of the degree was to complete an internship in an office – something that Patterson remembered gave her anxiety attacks.
“The internship would require me to work for eight months in an office setting and I hadn’t done that in a very long time,” she explained. “The last time I did that, that’s what triggered my panic attacks and anxiety.”
When she stopped working in the office, Patterson felt there was nothing left for her to do and dropped out of graduate school. That’s when she decided to give all of her belongings to a homeless shelter and rebuild her life.

Started website
Patterson’s mother and two sons – ages 9 and 11 – were shocked but then gave their support when she told them her decision to become homeless. However, Patterson felt her choice was necessary to deal with her fear of failing in life.
At the request of one of her followers on her blog, Patterson went to a tarot card reading which told her to start her female empowerment website  She said the thought of disappointing themselves and others is what she thinks limits women from achieving their goals.
“The most important thing that holds women back from going after their dreams or removing themselves from debilitating situations whether in relationship or jobs, is their fear of extreme failure and losing everything,” Patterson said.

Kicked out of park, assaulted and jailed
The four months Patterson spent on the streets were not without consequence or lessons learned. She slept in a park before being kicked out and sought refuge in a shelter, was sexually assaulted and spent two nights in jail.  At times, Patterson questioned her ability to make it through being homeless. She often asked herself why she did what she did and what would happen if she failed at another event in life.
“It seemed like such a good plan when I was organizing it,” she said, while asking: “What if I fail again? What if everyone watches me fail again? How can I bounce back? I’m so mad at myself for putting myself through this.”
However, Patterson often reminded herself that she was in a temporary situation while living in a shelter and on the streets, and that greater things would come from it.
“What I had to tell myself was this isn’t permanent,” Patterson noted. “This will be a memory. Everything around me will be a memory one day and that took away the sting of being in it and it allowed me to capture those moments in my mind so that I could write about them later that night.”

A life with no privacy
On her YouTube channel, Patterson vents to her viewers about sleeping conditions, missing her sons, the variety of people she lives with and trying to find some alone time while living in a homeless shelter. She said that adjusting to living with other people was difficult and frustrating – having no privacy with more than 100 people, but the transition made her appreciate the situation that much more.
While some have called her methods extreme, Patterson claimed it was necessary if she wanted to be the person she is today. She thinks releasing what held her back was the most important thing she’ll ever do in her life.
“I just let go,” Patterson stated. “I let go of trying to hustle and trying to find ways to make money, let go of trying to sustain what I had, which wasn’t much to begin with.”

Job fair helped 100 find work
After living on the streets, Patterson found a job as a server at a Denny’s restaurant where she still works.  Two months after she began working, Patterson saved enough money to move out of the homeless shelter and into a house that she shares with roommates. She has no desire to obtain her master’s degree and lives a simple lifestyle. She hasn’t gone shopping to replace the items she gave away.
As an employee, Patterson was able to create a partnership with the restaurant chain, which resulted in a job fair that hired more than 100 unemployed South Floridians on the spot.
Patterson hopes through her two websites and her life story that she can inspire others. She currently is coordinating with more organizations to have job initiatives to help the homeless.
“What I ended up doing, doing a project, I could have done on my own without turning it into a project,” Patterson reflected. “However, the lesson I learned, the most important lesson doing that project, is the ability to be so down and to quickly understand how to change my mentality to one that will benefit me.”

For more information on Te-Erika Patterson’s journey and information on the Rebuild Your Life Project, visit and

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