Blood, Sweat & Fears
How Jim Martin is saving souls—one house at a time.
(page 7 of 9)
Then, in April 2010, the president of an Oxford House in Wilmington, a man Martin had personally vouched for, Jesus Pinkston, relapsed, drove a stolen car onto a downtown sidewalk and killed Christopher W. White, 48, executive director of the nonprofit Community Legal Aid Society. Ironically, White was another champion of affordable housing. He was instrumental in converting a decaying property into the new Shipley Lofts. After White’s death, Connections let Martin go.
After Pinkston, Martin started the home at 1 New St., not as an Oxford House, but as the U Count Family Center. He found Amaro, but he left it to others to get the house running in earnest.
Sitting in the airy living-dining-kitchen area of the Quiet Acres home, Anthony Lewis, a 34-year-old recovering crack addict originally from Wilmington, explains, “Relapse is part of our journey. It’s not always a bad thing.” He is the only person since Martin to open new homes, two in Rehoboth. “Oxford House has definitely helped me.”
“People make mistakes,” Martin says. “You have to forgive.”
Since June 2010, Martin has worked for a faith-based group that manages halfway and transitional houses. He earns $13 an hour to supervise a property 24 hours a week. On off days, he works at remodeling and repair for extra income. He dedicates Mondays to his work for the homeless, specifically through Tap Faith. “My new addiction is work,” he jokes.
Martin helped start Tap Faith (Talented Address-less People for Affordable Innovative Transitional Housing) in August 2010 as a group of church members, rehab centers, landlords and others who help the homeless find places to live. Anyone in need can attend a meeting at Georgetown Presbyterian. On one recent Monday, four people, with nowhere else to go, approached the group. While some remained in the meeting room to attend to group business, other members quietly picked up their cell phones and left. They returned a short time later with news that there was a place for all, at least for the time being.
Through Tap Faith, Martin helped start Meghan’s House. It is another Gothic Revival style home, of sunny yellow clapboard, just a few blocks from 1 New St. Meghan’s is an Oxford House that failed. When the men who lived there let it fall apart, the landlord gave up on the idea. Martin persuaded him to try again. Chartered in June, it is now a house for women. The house president—an Oxford resident for six of the seven-and-a-half years since she kicked heroin—was the first woman in the 36-year history of the organization to assume the debt of a men’s house, and she saw that it was paid off.
Martin emphasizes again and again that he accomplishes nothing alone. “I’m just the crazy energy guy who says, OK, let’s do this. I’m just a nut.” Now, through Tap Faith, he has additional support. He has been able to continue opening transitional houses, and he hasn’t had to sign all the leases.
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