Our Mission

No one should have to suffer, transition, or die alone.

Maitri (pronounced “my-tree”) is Sanskrit for “compassionate friendship.” We provide compassionate residential care for people in need of hospice or 24-hour medical care.

Our Vision

May all be free from suffering and the causes of suffering.

Our Values

Maitri strives to provide care that is dignified, nonjudgmental, and unconditional.

Our History

the Hartford Street Zen Center today

Maitri began in 1987, when Issan Dorsey, a teacher at the Hartford Street Zen Center, took in a homeless student dying of AIDS. We soon grew to become a model eight-bed hospice in the heart of San Francisco’s Castro district, a place of solace in a community ravaged by AIDS.

As the dynamics of the epidemic changed (new drugs helped reduce mortality, but increased the number of patients living with severe debilitations), Maitri responded by doubling its capacity and extending care to non-hospice patients. In 1997, we relocated to a state-licensed, custom-designed facility, and Maitri’s board of directors received the Citibank Community Stewardship Award for their vision, foresight, and tenacity in seeing this project to completion.

In recent years, we’ve expanded our care to meet the needs of our community and begun serving people recovering from gender affirmation surgery. Today, more than 80% of our clients come to us for short-term medical respite and restorative care or gender affirmation care.

As of 2020, we’re offering BRANCH Aftercare to help support former residents as they transition into independence. BRANCH Aftercare includes ongoing therapy, case management, and invitations to events at Maitri.

Our Founder

Issan Dorsey

“AIDS wakes us up to the fact that life is fatal. It’s not AIDS that’s fatal, if you have AIDS, you’re alive.” – Issan Dorsey

Described as “magnetic, magnanimous, and luminous,” Issan (Tommy) Dorsey, the colorful founder of Maitri, created a caring community for hundreds of people with AIDS, and left behind a legacy of wisdom and compassion that continues to inspire us today. Issan himself died at Maitri of AIDS-related lymphoma in 1990.

From a complicated background marked with substance misuse to Zen master and drag queen, Issan’s life reflected his innate ability to “charm people senseless.” He left a group of followers devoted to dealing with whatever came to the door. “We started the hospice because death came to the door.”

For more details about Issan’s life, see Street Zen by David Schneider.

Our Residents