MILWAUKEE — Molly Rische and her son, Kadon, have found shelter at Hope Street Ministry in Milwaukee.
"I think this place is helping me find myself," Molly says. "They hold me accountable for decisions."
People find shelter at Hope Street Ministry because they are broken.
"I ended up becoming an addict. I've been clean now for almost 11 months," Molly says.
Men, women, and kids are welcome. Kadon is Molly's third child.
"They're really empathetic," Molly says about the staff at Hope Street Ministry. "It's just nice to feel comfortable and to be able to get my life back on track. I have criminal charges and things I need to deal with because of my addiction."
Executive Director Ashley Thomas began working at Hope Street Ministry as a volunteer. Now, she's in charge.
"I think the first thing is really creating a safe environment and really allowing kids to really be kids here," she says.
Ashley experienced homelessness as a teen and understands the challenges many face.
"There's a lot of brokenness in our city. There's a lot of things I wish could be different today," Ashley says. "I want people to be able to experience the life that everyone should experience."
It's an awareness that gets Ashley emotional, but she says kindness is very much alive in Milwaukee.
"I think it makes me sad but at the same time hopeful. There are people doing good things...and that's what I think is the best thing about our city," she says. "It's so easy to have a bad narrative about Milwaukee. We hear all the things going on. My encouragement would be to let people know there are good things happening. People who want it to be different are doing their part."
And Molly says Ashley is doing her part.
"She's amazing. She's actually the one I go to when I need stuff for the baby," Molly says. "Even though she's the boss around here, she doesn't make you feel intimidated. You feel very comfortable around her, so it's nice."
When Molly arrived, she was pregnant. But she was cradled by big hearts ready to support her.
"They helped me get a crib, diapers, clothes, a swing....anything you need for kids."
Ashley's own experiences with homelessness when she was a teen help her understand her clients' pain. But she also knows fractured families can flourish, and that faith can provide resiliency.
"That hope for me is in Jesus. That's what I stay rooted in," Ashley says. "That's what brings me here every morning. Even when there are hard days here, I am just reminded that there is a greater hope. I don't think we take enough time to stop and really get to know one another. We're so quick to be like, 'you're an addict, I can't trust you, you're homeless, you're lazy.'"
But the staff at Hope Street Ministry say that's a myth. People like Molly deserve to live in dignity without judgement. At Hope Street they get a chance to do better, be better, and to thrive.
"Without Hope Street I think I might have made the same mistakes I made in my past and I might be in addiction again," Molly says.
Hope Street Ministry clearly lives up to its motto, "A Greenhouse for People." It's a place cultivating the birth of greater tomorrows.