Blood, Sweat & Fears
How Jim Martin is saving souls—one house at a time.
(page 1 of 9)
Jim Martin steps onto the porch of a house at 1 New St. in Georgetown. It is a handsome place, a two-story Gothic Revival clad in cedar shakes with white trim and a blue standing-seam roof. It is a clean property, obviously well-maintained, with some tidy curbside landscaping and a trim yard. From outside, it looks, in a word, homey.
Yet Martin is tentative. The house is filled with men who are recovering from drug and alcohol abuse, some who have recently been released from prison. When several of them live together, he says, things can happen.
“I really don’t know what we’ll find here,” he says. “We could walk in on a fist fight.” He pauses a moment. “Some of the people who have lived here don’t like me, so—who knows?—we could get into a fist fight.”
A man answers his knock. Martin introduces himself as the person who organized the house. He was the lessee, the first resident, the first person to recruit other residents. Would anyone mind if he looked around?
It is quiet inside. At midday, most of the men are at work. Martin stands in the foyer, pointing at a door off the kitchen. “That used to be my bedroom right there.”
As he speaks, another man walks in. He is neatly dressed in a brown Polo-style shirt, denim shorts, leather deck shoes. He doesn’t recognize Martin at first, though Martin recognizes him in an instant. “You took over my room when I moved out,” Martin tells him.
Eric Amaro’s doleful eyes light up. He shakes Martin’s hand warmly, asks how he is. Amaro is glad to report that things are going well here—for the group, and for him personally.
Amaro, 46, is not, he says, the man he used to be. After an adult life of doing and dealing drugs followed by a few years at Sussex Correctional Institution and the death of his mother, he ended up here, at 1 New St. He pays a small but equal share of the rent and other expenses while he studies for an associate’s degree in human services at Delaware Tech in Georgetown. He is working, he is trying to earn back the trust of his 12-year-old daughter in Wilmington, and he is trying to help the other men in the house.
When someone commits to changing his life for the better, Amaro says, this model of shared transitional housing—the model that Martin applied here and has championed so vigorously, if quietly, across the state—works. Amaro is getting along OK, and he has a beautiful home to live in.
Standing in a sun-dappled yard—with its small pond, its tall, shady spruce, its air of tranquility—Amaro spreads his arms. “This is what that provides,” he says. “All you have to do is follow the rules. We know the road isn’t going to be easy, but all you need is an opportunity.”
Martin tears up for a moment.
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