I first heard of St. Joseph’s when I was 11 or 12. A friend from school had been missing for a week. When she returned, I asked her where she’d been.
“St. Joe’s,” she had replied.
“It’s a place they take you when you’ve abused. G**** (her stepfather) hit me.”
“Oh! God. I’m sorry.”
“It’s stupid. They won’t even let you hold hands with boys.”
I always viewed St. Joseph’s with a bit of fear when I was younger. Movies back then always portrayed orphanages as cold, cruel places filled with children who longed for escape. I’m sure those who ran the place had very good reasons for every rule. The hand-holding rule? A very good idea in my opinion. Though the majority of abused children won’t carry on their parents‘ behavior, a few will turn into predators.
I didn’t take a picture when I passed by last month. I didn’t want to seem like a parent plotting her child’s escape from the facility. It was the first time I had actually seen the building itself. But, from the outside, it’s a beautiful building. Large and sprawling and covered with brick, somewhat similar to the older high schools in the city. It’s run by the Catholic Charities, an organization that seems to do much of the humanitarian work within the city. They run a number of food shelves, homeless shelters, and other services for people and families in trouble. I ran across their name a number of times when I was considering volunteering.