Skills and Qualifications: The volunteer should come to Joseph's House wanting and ready to get out of their comfort zone and grow in countless ways. Joseph's House is a crossroads of cultures that includes the cultures of homelessness and years of incarceration, African American and Latino cultures of poverty and surviving it, the different cultures of gender identity, immigrant cultures, the culture of the very ill and those who are struggling to get well, the cultures of power and not enough power, education and illiteracy: middle class culture and the cultures of poverty. The volunteer should come to Joseph's House ready to immerse in these cultures, willing to be uncomfortable, willing to grow and learn and to serve from the heart. A foundational aspect of the culture of Joseph's House is learning to "be present" with a person for whom the activities of daily live have become impossible to do alone; being present with a person who is bed-bound or dying, sitting quietly, staying close and by their presence, helping to create a sense of calm. The volunteer should expect to feel deeply the passing of those residents with whom they may have grown very close. When a person dies, the surviving Joseph's House residents, many of whom face life-challenging illnesses of their own, are often devastated and fearful. The volunteer will grow into the capacity to experience their own emotions and also to reach out and comfort those who survive and suffer the loss of their housemate. The volunteer should be flexible and willing to "go with the flow," as there is no "normal" day at Joseph's House. Sensitivity and respect for people who are homeless, familiarity with people in the African American and Latino communities is helpful, along with being a self-starter, an open, curious and compassionate person, willing to do the work of growing into maturity in an emotionally challenging environment. Finally, a valid driver's license will help facilitate the work here.
Training: The volunteer will take part in a new staff and volunteer orientation, typically for a few hours each day for two weeks. The volunteer will participate in Joseph's House many team building and other in-service activities for staff throughout the year, such as quarterly, day-long retreats, weekly staff meetings and reflection, and monthly mentoring sessions. The volunteer will also participate in weekly sessions from September to January, where they will meet with a long-time associate of Joseph's House to reflect on their experiences and engage any questions or concerns that come up during their service. In the second half of the service year, the volunteer will participate in a weekly class taught by Joseph's House founder, David Hilfiker, MD who is an activist, author, and mentor.
From a former volunteer: "Joseph's House might sound like an intense place to work. Caring for people dying of AIDS doesn't have the same zippy appeal of teaching kids prevention or working at a clinic. But I think you should consider the placement, and here's why: Yes, there is death and dying at Joseph's House, and yes, there are times when the work is emotionally challenging. But the job is not as you imagine. There is the element of sitting by the bedside, but most of the job, believe it or not, is meeting people and laughing with them. It's varied, certainly: one minute you'll be lighting candles for someone who's passed--a person whose hand you held as he died--and the next you'll join the staff in the kitchen and sing I Will Survive using wooden spoons as microphones. Your co-workers will be gregarious and range broadly in age, and from day one they will treat you like family. You will make meals together, fold laundry, and goof around, and become friends with residents who will astound you with their strength and humility. You will take them to see movies, eat ice cream, and buy crabs at the wharf. You will hear their stories and share your own. The job, for me, was hardly work at all. It will humanize you and open your heart. It will make you better. Joseph's House is a challenging placement, no doubt, but I urge you strongly to consider it."