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.
In August of 2000 Hope Street purchased our current building on 26th and Capitol. Major renovations were funded by the Fleck Foundation. Hope Street opened its doors to men and women struggling with AODA or coming directly from incarceration.
In its beginnings Hope Street functioned under strict rules and a mandatory schedule. With a heart for overcoming addiction, programming was focused on behavior modification. Many people found success in this, but a foundational piece was missing: the goal should always be transformational heart change.
In October of 2005 Hope Street established itself as its own, separate non-profit, retaining ownership and oversight of 2522 West Capitol Drive.
In November of 2008 Scott Martin was killed in a motorcycle accident. He was loved and respected by the Hope Street community, and his death was deeply grieved.
Following Scott’s death Hope Street was temporarily under the leadership of Board Chair Ralph Cavaiani for the next nine months, followed by David Tennyck who had been on staff.
In March of 2010 Perry Brown became the Executive Director. Perry, the former Board Chair and volunteer since 2001, brought with him a pastoral heart and love for all people. At this time Hope Street owned our current building as well as the two buildings on the south side of Capitol. Upon Perry’s transition onto staff the two buildings on the south side of Capitol were given to the House of Vision, a ministry providing housing for people struggling with mental illness.
In 2012, under Perry’s leadership Hope Street underwent a branding exercise to learn how to effectively communicate who we are, what we do and most importantly why. Out of that came: Hope Street; The Greenhouse for People on 26th and Capitol. Within this framework Hope Street broadened its scope of members to men and women with any area of brokenness.
In 2013, Hope Street began the “Greenhousing” process of the building. Aligning our entire space to reflect our mission of restoring dignity. All 24 apartments received a makeover that included: refurbishing wood floors, accent walls, decorations and new furniture. Hope Street takes pride in creating spaces anyone would be proud to live in.
In 2013 a member of Hope Street found herself in a predicament involving her son becoming displaced and homeless. She decided to move from Hope Street prematurely, because, at the time, we did not allow children. After sharing her predicament with Perry it was decided that her son could live here temporarily, and eventually turned permanent. Witnessing the healing that reunification brought, the need to make housing available for entire families became obvious. Hope Street allowed 5 children to call this place home that year.
In March of 2014, Hope Street was notified that we were operating outside of our conditional use permit. We were zoned as a transitional living facility - that did not allow children to reside here, or for members to stay longer than 24 months. Both were taking place at the time. We received an order to cease and desist housing children until said zoning was obtained. Later that year Hope Street received approval from Milwaukee Common Council to provide housing for men, women and children, and allowing for members to stay beyond the traditional 24 months of maximum occupancy for the next 10 years.
In January of 2015, thanks to generous contributions from Spring Creek’s King Foundation and The Greater Milwaukee Foundation, Hope Street was able to remodel the basement. What was once four large spaces became 9 unique spaces for our members to develop new and healthy habits. These spaces include: a workout facility (cardio & weights), a bible study room, a computer lab, an adult community room, a kid playroom, a teen room, a community room and a laundry facility.
In June of 2015, Hope Street opened its doors for the first Open House - an opportunity for the greater community to see and experience all that happens inside the Greenhouse for People. We were joined by more than 200 guests.
Fast forward to April of 2016, and Ashley Thomas, former volunteer and eventual Assistant Executive Director, became Hope Street’s Executive Director. Under her leadership Hope Street hosted its first annual “Family Reunion” fundraiser at the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts in October of 2016.
In August of 2017 Hope Street purchased the adjacent vacant and boarded up building at 2510 W Capitol for $1.00 from the city of Milwaukee as the future home for Shechem, a community center where people can live, learn, develop new habits, and have fun. That building was later tore down in the Winter of 2018 to lay the foundation for new construction.
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!