A chance encounter with a homeless person in a public restroom, led Duffy Lawson to ask the question, “How can we help?” Duffy’s husband, the Rev. Paul Lawson, The Rev. Kelly Crawford, and a group of Albuquerque residents committed to helping their neighbors founded St. Martin’s Hospitality Center in 1985. It was The Rev. Kelly Crawford who hunted down grants and worked with the city to do more for the homeless people of Albuquerque.
Originally housed in a small building not far from the current St. Martin’s, the Center quickly outgrew its location. St. Martin’s had to move. And move it did to its current location at 1201 3rd St. NW. The Rev. Susan Sager supervised the move and became the Executive Director. She kept St. Martin’s alive in difficult times, and, along the way, served as Chaplain to the Homeless—leading worship on Sundays, visiting the sick, burying the dead and befriending all.
Along the way, the Rev. Paul Lawson, the Rev. Susan Sager and many other local clergy from a variety of faith communities formed a coalition of congregations and individuals that contributed to offering hospitality to those who experience homelessness.
Over time, St. Martin’s evolved into a non-sectarian 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization which has become Albuquerque’s premier homeless shelter, employment center, mental health facility and housing program. Still St. Martin’s lives out its commitment to offer hospitality to strangers.
Where did the name St. Martin’s come from? There were actually two St. Martins in history. According to tradition, the original St. Martin of Tours was a soldier in the Roman army who one day gave a poor beggar his cloak. That night, in a dream, Martin saw Christ wearing his garment and took it as a sign he was to devote his life to serving the neediest members of society.
The second St. Martin lived in Peru in the late 1500’s where he dedicated his life to serving the poorest neighborhoods in Lima.