Blood, Sweat & Fears
How Jim Martin is saving souls—one house at a time.
(page 5 of 9)
In governing themselves, Oxford House residents function more like a family than a loose collection of unrelated tenants, which affords them special protection under the law. As long as everyone plays by the rules, residents are free to come and go as they please, entertain themselves as they like. In time, it is hoped, they will develop the discipline and self-esteem to move onto bigger and better things.
A study by DePaul University in 2005 found that, 70 percent to 80 percent of Oxford House residents remained clean and sober after two years. That kind of success is far better than that of halfway houses, where, governed by strict curfews and rules that do little to foster independence, up to 90 percent of residents relapse.
Martin, elected a house officer on his first day with Oxford, quickly came to see the benefits of what is known as the 3/4 recovery model. Within two weeks, he secured a loan of $1,400 from Brandywine Counseling and opened a new Oxford House in Lewes. Then another, then another. There were nine Oxford Houses when he began. Two years later there were more than 30.
Martin’s role was scout, negotiator and recruiter. If the price was right and a prospective new house could accommodate enough men to make it affordable to members who worked, mostly, in low-wage jobs, Martin would present the Oxford model. If the landlord was willing to take the chance, Martin would sign the lease, then move in. From there, he would find members. When the house was full and operating smoothly, he would find a new property, then start the process over again. He changed addresses so many times, the credit bureaus looked at him as unstable and downgraded his rating. While living in Quiet Acres, his car was repossessed. He walked around Sussex for a month.
In all, Martin signed 15 of the leases for the 22 homes he opened or helped to open, making him—a low earner who was living hand to mouth—financially liable: If a group of housemates doesn’t make rent, he has to pay.
“The amazing thing is that it hasn’t happened yet,” he says. “I believe God had me covered. And every time, he has [had me covered].”
Driving along, he thinks back to 1 New St., to Amaro’s apparent success, the continuing success of 1 New St., and wells up again.
“Who would sign that lease? No one. But I knew it would work. I lived in it. I had faith.”
April Hudson bought Martin’s pitch. When she learned that the son of a friend lived in an Oxford House in Rehoboth Beach, she was introduced to Martin. “I told him, ‘Jim I want to give back, and this sounds like a wonderful thing.’” She then spent $70,000 to rehab a property that had been built by her grandparents, believing Oxford House was worth the investment. But, Hudson says, “Jim screwed the hell out of me.”
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