Sheretta Patterson grew up in the Austin neighborhood on Chicago’s West Side. Her parents owned two taverns, and her family lived above one of them. “I was around the ‘spirit world’ for a long time,” she jokes. Athletic and active, Sheretta ran track and participated in dance in high school. One of her first jobs was at Shine King, a shoe repair shop in the Austin neighborhood that has been in business for 55 years. “Every walk of life came through that shoe shop,” she says. “From corporate America to law enforcement to homeless people.” Sheretta worked the counter, making repair recommendations, and taking customers’ information and payment. “That’s where I was taught to meet a person’s needs, to keep the customer happy.”
Sheretta continued working at Shine King through college. The store was located across the street from the Garfield Counseling Center (GCC). One day, the manager of GCC pointed to Sheretta and said “I need you to work the reception desk while I go to a meeting, and answer the phones for me.” Surprised by the request – she didn’t know the person who asked her – Sheretta complied. The requestor turned out to be Theodora Binion-Taylor, who went on to become Director of the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) Division of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse (DASA). Sheretta managed the front desk that day, and stayed on as a volunteer until hired to work in GCC’s Residential Management Services accounts payable department.
At GCC, Sheretta discovered her passion for the field of substance abuse counseling. Her next job was as a secretary at Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities (TASC), where she was promoted to case manager, with a case load of 101 clients. While working as a case manager, she earned an associate degree in addiction studies, and worked part time at a night monitor at Haymarket addiction treatment center Sheretta continued working in the field, strengthening and expanding her skillset at Community Counseling Centers of Chicago, Recovery Point and the Women’s Treatment Center, while earning a BA in interdisciplinary studies at Northeastern Illinois. She then returned to TASC, where she worked as a recovery coach and parents’ advocate for families whose children had been removed from their parents’ care. She describes a mother who was on the brink of having her parental rights terminated. “So we got to work. We got her psychotropic medication and services to support her. In two years’ time, her two children were returned to her care. She told me ‘No one has walked this far with me before.’ That’s why I do this work.”
Sheretta joined Inner Voice in December 2018 to help launch its new program for veterans — Transition in Place (TIP). “Transition in Place is an opportunity for veteran families who have experienced a loss of employment, and may have had other losses as well. Our goal is to assist 25 families; currently I am the case manager for 22 families in the TIP program,” Sheretta says.
TIP provides an opportunity for veterans and their families to get supportive housing while reestablishing themselves in society. The program is for individuals who are either employed or employable – who can achieve an income sufficient enough for them to obtain a lease following a period of support. Participants pay a 10% occupancy fee for their apartment for a period of six, 12 or 24 months as they receive financial literacy and employment counseling to prepare them assume full responsibility for the lease. About 70% of TIP participants come from Inner Voice’s Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program (HVRP).
As TIP’s case manager, Sheretta says her goal is to make sure her clients do not experience homelessness again. “I’m still learning my job. I always like helping. When we can service people who are unable to advocate for themselves or maneuver the system or navigate bureaucracy and we can step in and cut through, that’s a rewarding feeling,” Sheretta says. “I believe I’ve done my job when I can help a veteran get from point A to point Z when they couldn’t do it on their own. So many people walk around not having that information. It’s rewarding. The best part of the job is giving a family the key to a new home.”