The primary setting of Hope was Here by Joan Bauer is, eventually, a small town in southern Wisconsin; more specifically, it is a small-town diner in Mulhoney, Wisconsin, called Welcome Stairways Diner. This is both a place of employment and a home for Hope Yancey and her Aunt Addie, who come to live above the diner. Later, it is the headquarters for G.T. Stoop's political campaign.
The first aspect of this specific setting which impacts the plot is that the diner becomes a real home for Hope (formerly Tulip), a young girl who has been rather adrift all her life. She does not know who her father is, and her mother is quite irresponsible; in fact, her mother ultimately decides she is unfit to raise her daughter and just gives her to Addie. After a life of moving from place to place, Hope and her aunt have finally come to a place which feels like home. They both have friends here, and when Addie marries G.T., he fulfills Hope's longing for a father. Hope also meets a wonderful boy here; she and Eddie Braverman are a a good match because Braverman, too, wants to help people.
A small-town diner, in general, is a unique place because it provides a family atmosphere both among the employees and between the customers and the employees. In this case, for example, when one of the other waitresses, Lou Ellen, has a child who is not eating properly, Stoop allows her to keep Anastasia in a makeshift nursery in his office. Even more importantly, Hope and Braverman tenderly coax the child to drink from a bottle. In short, it is here that Hope finds all the family she could want and has been craving for most of her life.
The second element of this setting which impacts the plot is the existence of corruption in the form of Real Fresh Daily and Eli Millstone. While the town is small, comfortable, and family-like, it is also a place where small-town political pressure and corruption is rampant. This aspect of the setting has a direct impact on the plot in several ways. First, Hope's adopted father loses an election to Millstone because Millstone starts and propagates lies about Stoop's health; it is part of Hope's life experience to have to learn that all people are not honest. Later, she and Braverman discover something even more sinister about this election: Millstone rigged the results. This display of political bullying and corruption by Millstone on the primary industry in town makes Hope even more thankful for her new "family."
Being able to experience both the positive and negative aspects of small-town life is integral to Hope's growth and maturity. While she had some hard things happen to her early in her life, it is in this setting, with these people, that she gains the confidence she needs to go on to become a productive and happy young adult. Before moving to Wisconsin, she changed her name to Hope because, she says,
hope is just about the best thing a person can have.
Once she has made Mulhoney and the Welcome Stairways Diner her home, she has truly begun to live a life that matches her name.