Blood, Sweat & Fears
How Jim Martin is saving souls—one house at a time.
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Though not Oxford properties, the homes work on the same 3/4 recovery model, and they are open to a wider variety of people in need: sex offenders, victims of domestic abuse, the formerly incarcerated, the mentally ill, the disabled who live on Supplemental Security Income—in short, anyone whose circumstances make them the working poor, anyone whose past or present circumstances make it difficult to find a workable living situation. Meghan’s House is such a place.
“Over time, I’ve watched the demand for housing coming from these sectors,” says Scott Walker, of 3D, the Disabled Disadvantaged Delawareans Foundation. Walker is the owner of 17 properties in New Castle County that, for the past 10 years, he has rented to groups of similar tenants. Walker learned of Martin through a newspaper story. When he reached out, Martin introduced him to Tap Faith.
The model works, Walker says. There are occasional problems in his homes—though no violent crimes—yet in living there, residents learn a sense of responsibility, especially the recently incarcerated, who eventually learn to manage their freedom.
“I’ve seen a lot of characters in the past two or three years,” Martin says. “I meet some, I think, ‘This guy is never going to make it.’ Then they totally transform themselves. You have to give people a chance to be a decision maker in their own lives, and you have to give them something to be responsible for. That’s what transformed me.”
Walker points out that for someone in need, housing must come first. And the demand for affordable housing is great. With average rents of $750 to $1,077 for a two-bedroom apartment, depending on location, a person must work two to 2.9 full-time minimum wage jobs to make ends meet, according to the Delaware Housing Coalition. Those are the kinds of jobs—retail sales, food service, janitorial, etc.—many people in recovery and the recently incarcerated work. What’s more, a person who lives on SSI for disability can’t afford an efficiency apartment anywhere in the state.
That’s why Kevin Ann Huckshorn is a fan of Martin and the transitional housing model. Director of the Delaware Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health, she understands the need to shelter people in recovery. Under the terms of the state’s recent settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice after its three-plus year investigation of the Delaware Psychiatric Center, the state must help more of the institutionalized through community-based solutions. That’s where Oxford House, 3D and other transitional housing comes in.
“Jim was a real pioneer in looking at that model and seeing how it could be adopted by other populations,” Huckshorn says. “Shelters are not answers. They’re not permanent. And it’s a very unnatural environment. What adult wants to live with a bunch of strangers? It doesn’t do anything to keep people from coming back to the hospital.”
Nor should such people be housed in apartment complexes full of others like them, where the cycle perpetuates itself, Huckshorn says. Integration with the wider community is the key to real help and healing. The 3/4 recovery plan of shared housing, applied to people in recovery and other populations, “is a good model to have in your menu of choices.”
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