Blood, Sweat & Fears
How Jim Martin is saving souls—one house at a time.
(page 6 of 9)
By failing to properly screen the candidates, Martin admitted a sex-offender (banned by Oxford House) and men who clearly hadn’t yet given up the hooch. They damaged the property and took liberties with the house. “It was absolutely awful,” she says. She cleared the lot out, contacted Oxford House headquarters in Silver Spring, Md., and found new tenants.
“The gentlemen in my Oxford House now are absolutely fabulous because it was done properly,” Hudson says. “There’s a pride. So I believe in the model. It works. But it has got to be done by the book.”
Martin says that the early life of any new house is “filled with drama.” In each one he has opened, “There are one or two people who hate my guts. I don’t know why.”
In June 2009, Martin was hired by Connections Community Support Programs, based in Wilmington, specifically to open new Oxfords. Connections liked the Oxford model, and Martin says he was “fantastically thrilled that someone would want me to open these houses.”
He made some enemies fairly early on. In searching for money to start new homes—usually about $4,000—Martin discovered a small revolving loan fund specifically for Oxford Houses, granted to the state but managed by an independent contractor. Martin applied for several loans, but was repeatedly denied. Smelling something fishy, he challenged the fund administrator, the late Wilmington politician Wendell Howell, a recovering crack addict, and he pressed the state to investigate.
The state found that the fund was poorly managed—most of the loans had never been repaid—and cleaned up the operation. Howell had friends among Oxford House residents, including Martin’s roommates. After working on a new Oxford House one day, Martin returned home to find his belongings on the curb. His housemates informed him that he had missed a group meeting. They voted him out, and Martin found himself homeless again.
“You really suffer as a whistleblower,” he says. “My life was an absolute wreck.”
Undeterred, and with the loan fund working, Martin continued to open new homes. Quiet Acres was the first to be started from the loan fund. Yet for all his work on Oxford’s behalf, Martin’s relationship with the organization eventually grew strained. The remoteness of Quiet Acres has made it difficult to keep the house filled. (Forty men have passed through it in two years.) A couple of houses failed. Despite Oxford’s mission to help the formerly incarcerated, Martin took an interest in people who were released too recently for the organization’s tastes.
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