Editor’s note: This is one of an occasional series of articles about the people and places of 53206.
In a room decorated with colorful drawings and inspirational posters such as “You deserve a round of applause,” and “Live Your Life,” four girls sit around a circular table drawing pictures of mountains with colored markers. An adult supervisor asks them what qualities they would need to climb the mountain and get to the other side.
These girls, who reside in a transitional living home run by Revive Youth & Family Services, undoubtedly will face challenges as they move on in life, but they will have been taught how to “get to the other side.” The main goal of the organization is to help young people learn how to take care of themselves, according to Revive founder Crystal McClain.
Revive provides supportive housing, psychological counseling and educational support to youth at risk of incarceration, homelessness or victimization.
Revive runs two licensed group homes for males ages 12-18, and two transitional living facilities for girls. Revive Transitional Living Center I serves females from 12-18 who identify as LGBTQ. Revive Transitional Living Center II serves girls 14-18.
Twenty-seven youth live in the facilities, and a total of 330 have benefitted from the program. Working with community housing resources, such as Landlake LLC and the Wisconsin Association of Child and Youth Care Professionals, McClain also helps find housing for the youth after graduation.
McClain said she was profoundly inspired by her aunt, Freddie Holton, who was known for opening her doors to children in need. Holton lived in the 53206 community until she passed away at 100 years old.
McClain was working on her master’s degree at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 2010 when she came up with the idea to open a group home. At the time, she also participated in a field practicum at Walker’s Point Youth and Family Center.
Her job at the center was to find homes for children. “I figured since I was placing kids in homes, why can’t I house these children myself,” McClain said.
“I felt as if by founding Revive, I was continuing my aunt’s legacy and fulfilling my professional desire,” McClain said. She started the organization in 2010 and acquired Holton’s former house, located on North 17th Street. It is now known as Revive Center 1.
In 2011, Revive purchased a home on North 22nd Street known as Revive Center 2. Transitional Living Center 1 and 2 were opened nearby in 2014 and 2016, respectively.
One of Revive’s priorities is to ensure that young people earn a high school diploma. “We also teach the kids how to grocery shop, cook meals and manage their money so that when they leave Revive they know the difference between a checking account and savings account, and have a minimum of $200 saved,” McClain said.
Revive’s faculty consists of 13 individuals with backgrounds in social services and child welfare. McClain stressed the importance of preparing the youth to be productive and to give back to the community when they move out.
Xavier Kinnebrew, 18, spent about two years in a Revive group home. He said the program changed how he behaved and interacted with others. “Before I came to this program I was doing stuff — stuff I wasn’t supposed to be doing, but now I’m on the right track,” Kinnebrew said.
McClain noted that adult figures were very important to her growing up, and all children should have someone to look up to. “To know I am going to be that person for these kids is so rewarding.”