The bearded, diminutive Pike Place Market social worker Joe Martin has been described as a leprechaun who looks like he fell off a charm bracelet. He’s in his 60s now, having spent more than 40 years in the social-services trenches and distinguishing himself as a most unselfish devotee of the underdog. He seeks homes for the homeless, help for the penniless, and teeth for the toothless. A onetime attendant at a Boston mental hospital, he found his way to Seattle and a job at a mental-health institute. He went on to co-found the Downtown Emergency Service Center and the Pike Market Medical Clinic, where he keeps his office to serve the mostly low-income and elderly clientele. He’s been honored as Operation Nightwatch’s Hero of the Homeless, and had a Low Income Housing Institute facility, Martin Court, named for him. He’ll take those honors in lieu of a big salary, saying he loves what he does and doesn’t need much to get by. “If you want to know what God thinks of money,” he says, “just look at who he gives it to.”
Read all of our picks for People & Places, and explore the rest of this year’s edition of Best of Seattle.