HOLLYWOOD — In a novel move to try to get women off the streets by bringing 30 local businesses on board for a job fair, Te-Erika Patterson has volunteered to become homeless.
Keeping a few items of clothing and family photographs, the 31-year-old organizer of the Rebuild Your Life Project gave away her belongings and the keys to her Hollywood apartment on Madison Street on Monday to live on the city’s streets.
“This is my calling,” Patterson said about organizing the job fair for Hollywood’s homeless women. “And I will not seek housing until all 30 companies have committed to helping.”
The Liberty City native is a journalist, writer and Web publisher with a bachelor’s in journalism from the University of Florida. She said she started the project to teach homeless women to overcome their fear of failure and give them confidence to rebuild their lives. She will videotape her life of homelessness to create a personal documentary.
“Maybe they didn’t come into it the way I did but I want to help them,” Patterson said.
The job fair, tentatively scheduled for May 9, will be held at the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center, 2400 Charleston St., Hollywood. Patterson said that she has been planning it for about a month.
“What she’s doing is a drastic move that takes bravery,” said Sean Cononie, director of The Homeless Voice Homeless Shelter in Hollywood.
“Just saying the word ‘homeless’ causes at least 75 percent of people to think ‘unqualified’ or ‘you can’t do anything,” he said. “So I know it’s tough.”
Cononie is connecting women from his shelter with Patterson’s project and is optimistic about the partnership making a difference in their lives.
“We’re hoping the businesses will look at them as normal people and consider them for employment,” he said.
Patterson plans to visit Hollywood-based businesses to secure their commitment for the fair.
“I’ll make calls, knock on doors. They only need to be sincere about placing women who are qualified for the positions offered,” she said.
As of mid-week, no businesses had signed on for the fair.
Patterson has no income and will use food stamps to pay for her meals. She plans to sleep outside some nights and will use the Homeless Voice Homeless Shelter when needed.
“I’ll spend time talking to women in both places about what I’m doing, get a feel for their lives what they need and how they survive,” she said.
She announced that Luther Campbell, former front man for 2 Live Crew and a candidate for Miami-Dade County mayor, will endorse her project at a session slated for 9 p.m. this Thursday at the Legends Café on Harrison Street in Hollywood.
Patterson’s sons, Sai, 10 and Solomon, 8, are currently living with their father. “I miss them. I need to get back and care for them,” she said. “For now, they will come on the weekends so we can spend the day together in the park.”
Homelessness, Patterson said, should not be a permanent lifestyle. “Having a job, a place to go every day, being productive; that will help restore their dignity,” she said.
Cynthia Roby can be reached at CynthiaRoby@bellsouth.net