The charismatic retired founder of Peace Neighborhood Center now heads an organization called “Rose’s Good Company.” It has no address and no listed phone number. But through word-of-mouth, ex-cons find her and line up for help.
A couple of years ago, Martin worked briefly for King at MPRI. She says she quit in disgust after four months because the organization balked at providing her clients with three things she viewed as essentials: bus passes, phone cards, and cigarettes.
The program now provides bus passes and sometimes gives out phone cards as gifts. But cigarettes? “Ex-cons don’t want to talk to you if they don’t have cigarettes,” Martin snaps. “You have to give them what they want, not what you want.”
Martin calls King “very smart” and says, “I know she has the welfare of people” at heart. But she believes she can accomplish more outside of bureaucracy—in part by enlisting the help of established ex-cons who relate better to newly released prisoners than “officials.”
Martin once had an office but says, “I had to choose whether to pay rent or to feed people. I choose to feed people.” She meets her clients wherever is convenient for them—at the Peace Center, the library, or the bus station.