San Francisco's Zen Hospice: Background information when reading Serious Face

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Serious Face


by Jon Mooallem

Serious Face by Jon Mooallem X
Serious Face by Jon Mooallem
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  • Published:
    May 2022, 320 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Erin Lyndal Martin
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San Francisco's Zen Hospice

This article relates to Serious Face

White Victorian rowhouse in San FranciscoIn an essay from Serious Face titled "A House at the End of the World," Jon Mooallem writes about Zen Hospice, a palliative care facility opened in San Francisco in 1986 by members of the local Zen Buddhist community who were heartsick seeing unhoused people dying on the streets. They had the idea to open a hospice that would offer them shelter and comfort while allowing the volunteers to practice service. This was also during the peak of the AIDS crisis, when people were afraid to come into contact with those who had contracted the illness, leaving many patients to die alone in hospital hallways.

Zen Hospice began very small with an all-volunteer staff and meager budget, operating from one room in a large Victorian house owned by the San Francisco Zen Center. The hospice ultimately took over the whole house as the program expanded, and it came to be known as the Guest House. Zen Hospice operated there until 2018, when the building had to be sold to pay off debts.

Though ...

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