Nicole Zorn from Safe Families and Ashley Thomas from Hope Street Ministry discussed how an individual learning to trust and feel a community of people support them leads to deep and lasting transformation in the lives of everyone involved. Nicole Zorn from Safe Families and Ashley Thomas from Hope Street Ministry discussed how an individual learning to trust and feel a community of people support them leads to deep and lasting transformation in the lives of everyone involved.
Safe Families works with volunteer host families who shelter children while their parents work toward the healing or restoration they need. The goal is to, whenever possible, reunite families rather than relegate children to a life in the foster care system. The network of over one hundred chapters across the country is made up of many churches who both host and provide for the children until they can be reunited with their parents. Discussing what those they serve have in common, Nicole answered:
They often come from multiple generations of every kind of poverty: material poverty, social poverty, spiritual poverty. And the thing they share in common is a sense of isolation from the broader community.
Ashley and Nicole also discussed the hard realities of work with those who are experiencing some kind of brokenness and the tough love and difficult decisions that have to take place to help people on their journey toward restoration.
Hope Street Ministry is based near downtown Milwaukee. They provide housing and community to empower broken men, women, and children who cultivate a relationship with Jesus, themselves, and others. The organization restores hope that flourishing is possible for us all.
Begun as a housing facility, Hope Street has expanded to offer classes and programming to address whatever restoration the members need, from faith and financial literacy to counseling and physical wellness. Membership comes with rigorous expectations to participate, meet individualized goals, and follow conduct rules. Members with children are permitted to live with their families—a necessity for achieving true restoration and trust—something other living facilities are unable to offer.
In 2022, Shechem community center opened next door to Hope Street, extending the programming to neighbors who may not require housing but can benefit from the classes, relationships, and community. As Ashley put it,
We have a thousand members, and our first year we have over fifteen schools represented. We have fifty to seventy-five kids coming in for after school programing every single day, looking for a snack, help with homework, a safe place to be.
While many write off such community organizations as ineffective, discriminatory, and exclusionary and prefer the government get involved to solve personal problems, it is in the love and direct and sustained presence with our brothers and sisters in need that true transformation happens.