On December 10, 2001, a group of Milwaukee central city residents and supporters issued a public announcement establishing Serenity Inns, Inc. Serenity Inns was created to help meet the overwhelming need in Milwaukee for quality transitional living programs for recovering persons.
The project was born out of concern from parishioners and clergy in five Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) congregations situated in the geographical heart of much of the city’s drug traffic. Staff members in these congregations have had daily and weekly ministries with addicted persons for more then 20 years. These congregations – Reformation, All Peoples, Cross, Hephatha and Incarnation – serve people in zip codes 53208, 53212, 53205 and 53206 where the most calls for housing come from the Community Information Line (311), a central access point for information about family, health and social service needs.
Every congregation can share stories of individuals who have successfully maintained recovery because of access to safe, drug-free transitional housing. There are simply not enough places – not enough facilities – available to effectively serve the number of people in recovery, especially in the geographic area described.
One of the first steps was to secure an appropriate house. In May 2002, a condemned house at 2825 West Brown St. was purchased, secured with resources from Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity. Just 18 months later, through a partnership with Habitat and the work of many volunteers, a beautifully renovated and refurbished house was dedicated before a gathering of some 100 supporters. The house was completely furnished and core staff was hired. These included a program administrator/social services coordinator, an addictions counselor, and two house managers (Innkeepers). A diverse “working” board of directors was formed and they took on the tasks of telling the Serenity Inns story and raising needed funds.
Serenity Inns benefited greatly from an important mentoring relationship with Samaritan Inns – a program of recovery through transitional living within the ministry of Shared Hope in Washington, D.C. Samaritan Inns has functioned effectively for more than 30 years. Serenity Inns selected this partnership because of its unique philosophy and unusual success rate. Central to its program are a combination of clear expectations and disciplines with in-depth personal development and responsibility. Experienced Shared Hope staff worked with and trained the staff at Serenity Inns. The formal mentoring partnership lasted three years. We are now a part of the “trainer” program, where Serenity Inns staff are able to share their expertise along with Shared Hope staff in helping other communities address AODA needs in their communities.