At Joseph’s House the practice of justice and the practice of compassion are never separate. Founded in 1990 as a home for homeless men dying of AIDS, we knew it wasn’t right that middle-class folks suffering from AIDS nearly always had a roof over their heads, but poor people suffering in the same way had nowhere to stay but the streets. Opening Joseph’s House was an act of both compassion and justice.
When a small non-profit organization like Joseph’s House takes justice seriously, its structures reflect it. For example, from our earliest days Joseph’s House has paid above the going-rate for nurse’s aides. In many institutions nurses’ aides are underpaid and undervalued. At Joseph’s House, we value our aides and demonstrate this through a salary structure that pays more than a living wage, provide generous annual leave and sick leave, and pays for health insurance for every employee.
Dr. David Hilfiker, our founder, teaches a weekly class to our interns, volunteers and new staff that focuses on justice and is organized around issues of racism, economics and U.S. history. He helps these young people to become curious about the social forces that serve some of us so generously and at the same time, oppress others of us profoundly. (Read more about David’s teachings on compassion and justice here.) Learning about the complex issues raised in David’s class and reflecting on these matters in a very personal way through relationships developed with Joseph’s House residents helps the young people who serve here to choose a path of graduate studies that equips them to become advocates for people who are poor and oppressed. This is one of the seldom mentioned but meaningful ways that Joseph’s House gives back to our wider community – through the young people who have been formed here for leadership and service.