“Serving on the board has been so fulfilling and has given me a wonderful opportunity to serve people seeking decent, affordable housing and jobs that pay a respectable wage.”
JP resident and activist Joe Vallely joined the JPNDC board in 1993 and served for 25 years. At our Annual Meeting on June 7, we were delighted to present him with the Nate Smith Award for Community Organizing.
Where are you from originally and how did you come to do what you do now?
I grew up just outside of Boston in the town of Needham, home to the current Governors of both Massachusetts and New Jersey (NJ has an awesome Democrat, right now). I’m one of five kids. I graduated from Boston College and joined the Jesuit Volunteer Corps where I learned about social justice through my community organizing in the city of Wilmington, Delaware.
After completing my year with the JVC and moving home, I was invited to move into Haley House in the South End. Haley House served meals to the homeless and today provides housing and job training. That was a profound experience. At that time, I also worked for Congressman Robert Drinan, SJ and later the Planning Office of the Archdiocese of Boston.
I was appointed under Mayor Flynn to direct the Emergency Shelter Commission charged with addressing homelessness, and went on the Mass. Department of Public Health where I oversaw homeless programs and housing initiatives. I’ve been a Housing Specialist at the Dept. of Mental Health for nearly 20 years, with responsibilities for housing development and policy along with oversight of our statewide homeless outreach program.
How did you end up working and living in JP?
I came to JP through a friend, Sister Virginia Mulhern, a Notre Dame Sister who was assigned to Blessed Sacrament. It so happens we met at a “sit-in” at the State House seeking to keep open the Parker St. Shelter, which at the time was the first and only shelter serving people with serious mental illness. Sister Virginia inspired me so much that I decided I wanted to attend Blessed Sacrament and live in Jamaica Plain.
I now have lived here for over 30 years with my wife, Kitty, and our two (now grown) children John and Clare. I’ve dragged them all along to many JPNDC meetings and demonstrations over the years!