Like any living thing, over the course of seasons, years, and decades growth changes the appearance of life. Seeds give way to sprouts, buds vanish into blossoms, and pedals of flowers sway softly to the ground as fruit takes their place. All of what Hope Street is and does today is simply fruit of the seeds, sprouts, buds, and blossoms that have come before us.
In the late 1990’s there was an organization called Transitional Row Housing on Michigan Avenue in Milwaukee. Ed Edwards and a few other Christian men had a heart for people struggling with addiction and asked Scott Martin, a man who had fought his own battle with substance abuse to come in and lead Transitional Row. Scott had personal and professional experience in recovery and agreed to take the job if Ed could find a Board of Directors to help lead and support him. Another ministry called Samaritan Inn had a board consisting of Tom Aul, Jim Hishmeh, Eric Hobbs, and Mark McCoy. They were obedient to the call it seemed God was
putting on their hearts. Obedience that trumped understanding is in the DNA of our leaders.
Hope Street was formed and ran under Samaritan Inn Ministries for the first few years of existence. We moved to our current location in 1999 and began major renovations and improvements to our building on 26 th and Capitol. Shortly thereafter we formed our own 501c3 Corporation and Board of Directors. There is a long list of men and women who have served as board members and whom we owe a great debt to. While our residents pay membership fees to live here, we have always had to supplement those fees with funds from individual donors, churches, businesses, and foundations. We would not exist as we do today without that support.
After Scott Martin’s untimely death in 2008 in a motorcycle accident, Ralph Cavaiani, Board Chair at the time took over as director on an interim basis. Dave Tennyck was eventually hired as the new Executive Director and like Scott before him brought his professional skills as an attorney, his passion for our residents, and prolific organizational skills to Hope Street and led us out of a difficult and emotional period after the loss of Scott. The seeds of faithful obedience had sprouted, and Hope Street had grown beyond many of our dreams. Even in the losses we experienced along the way new buds were forming and blossoming because of our leaderships perspective that God was doing something big, and our small job was to join Him in that work.
In 2011 Perry Brown stepped down from the Hope Street board and was appointed Executive Director. Perry’s love for the people as well as the great big God story equipped him to be a faithful presence that brought healing to many. He was willing to take chances out of obedience despite the apparent logic that said to do otherwise.
In 2012 our leaders saw the wisdom of seeking an outside perspective to define, clarify, and focus our purpose. With the help of Greg Marshall we came to an honest consensus that Hope Street is a Greenhouse for People on 26th and Capitol. Since 2012 we have been working hard to align everything we do with that metaphor. It is our promise to the members, staff, volunteers, and our neighborhood. We want to see people flourish in this environment. People now include kids, and addiction or drug and alcohol abuse are not the only reasons we accept members. We see abandonment, sexual,emotional or physical abuse, homelessness, and other influences that cause us to lose our dignity as sources of brokenness that our residents can heal from here. In the midst of all the difficulty in life and poor choices we have all made, we still believe we can cultivate hope.
Our history ends in our present. Going forward we will continue to protect our members, staff, and volunteers from the toxic environment that exists right outside our front door, and nurture the community that is growing; a community that shares and has Jesus in common. Because if we share His love, grace, suffering, death, and burial then I am sure we will also share in His resurrection, and that is finishing with a flourish!
A group of men, from both urban and suburban churches of different denominations, had a heart for men and women that were recovering from addiction. There was a duplex available on 26th and Michigan and they recruited Scott Martin who had history, both personally and professionally, with addiction. They asked Scott to oversee Transitional Row in the mid 90’s.
Scott approached that group of men and asked for oversight of a board. One of the men was on the board for Oakton Manor, a Community Based Residential Facility (CBRF) on the southside of Milwaukee, on 15th and National. Oakton Manor fell under the umbrella of Samaritan Inn Ministries. Their Board of Directors agreed to have oversight. In this Hope Street was birthed, and Scott was hired as the Executive Director.