Joe’s House was founded to serve previously incarcerated individuals moving back into their communities with clean, convenient, and affordable housing. Individuals re-entering society after incarceration are beset with many challenges, a fact known to many yet often overlooked. However, Joe Howell, owner and operator of all the Joe’s House properties, has navigated the re-entry process successfully, understands the hurdles specific to felons, and has proposed to make good living standards available to as many of these underserved Idahoans as possible.
Safe, probation and parole approved housing for those who have completed prison terms seems like it should be easily accessible. For those who have experienced the process however, good options are very limited. The challenges range from overcrowding to high costs and fees, from risky environments to restrictions associated with specific convictions, and many more.
My name is Joe Howell, and I was born and raised in the Treasure Valley. Although I consider myself an entrepreneur, I started my career in sales when I was 14 years old while working for the Idaho Statesman, running a paper route. In addition to running my regular route I would go door-to-door selling newspaper subscriptions. During the summers of my junior high school years, I worked at a local fruit stand always striving to upsell my customers. After high school I entered the world of phone sales, accepting a job telemarketing tools to contractors. I worked in this industry for over 20 years in many capacities including as sales representative, team leader, general manager, and owner-operator.
I found myself in the transitional housing business in 2016. My model is different than my competitors, and through my methods and strategies, I believe it has proven more successful both for myself and for people transitioning out of incarceration and back into their community.
At one point in my life, I started a string of bad choices which landed me in prison, but I was released from custody of the Idaho Department of Corrections in April of 2007. I left IDOC on a mission to make a great living while giving back to my people – incarcerated individuals and those newly released. I had an extensive background and success in tools telemarketing, and in February of 2008, I opened the Boise office for Ace Industrial Supply. I hired my first six employees from the IDOC work release center and never once looked back. Over the years I taught many people with criminal backgrounds to make a good living through telemarketing.
By 2015 I’d hired hundreds of people from probation, jails, and prisons through my telemarketing business. That year, I had two work release employees that expressed how bad their experiences had been in Treasure Valley transitional housing. They told me stories of run-down houses where two, three, and even four people were sharing a bedroom. Illegal drug use was not only normal but rampant at some of them. From these reports I questioned how anyone could be successful living in those conditions. After verifying what they were telling me was accurate, I began my search for an inexpensive property. I was determined to turn it into the best halfway house available.
By the end of 2015 I had my first residential rental property under contract, and we went to work feverishly on the renovations. I resolved to make my house better than what all the competition had, so that’s exactly what I did. In February of 2016, after months of renovations, my first halfway house was open for business. I made sure to only allow one person per room. Personal space is important for success. Other transitional houses don’t allow visitors, but I feel that is counterproductive. At Joe’s House we want our customers working towards rebuilding lost trust and relationships, so I feel it’s only appropriate that their family, spouses, and friends be allowed to visit. My house was different than what anyone else offered for transitional housing and for about the same price as the competition. Since that first house, I’ve continued to purchase more homes to keep up with the demand, and it still never is enough. I currently have eight transitional homes with a total of 55 rooms. I still don’t have enough rooms to keep up with the demand, but I am grateful for those I am fortunate enough to help with housing and the difference it is making in their lives. Their success is what is rewarding for me.
My personal philosophy is that probation and parole are hard enough without having someone else to be overly accountable to. I believe residents need a place they can call home and to be able to be proud of where they live. Therefore, I ensure the houses are always taken care of from the outside, such as lawn care, regular pest control, and prompt maintenance and repair. In addition, I ensure that when I buy the homes they are remodeled and in great condition for my tenants to move in. Finally, my approach is to treat all residents as adults. It not only helps my tenants feel more at home but also allows them to make a few mistakes to learn from along the way. This gives them dignity.
Due to the quality of the homes and my management style, they are regularly full. The fact that I have been incarcerated helps my tenants feel comfortable with me after they hear my story. They feel a connection with me because I was once in the same place they are in their lives, and they often come to me for advice. Many of them tell me that because they see me coming from where they are now to being successful, that they believe that they too can achieve success. It is with this in mind that I would like to continue my efforts to help this community have a fair chance at starting over, as well as to continue to grow my ability to serve the transitional housing market.
When I’m not working, friends can find me enjoying the beautiful Idaho great outdoors with my wife Aly, while boating at Lucky Peak, paddle boarding Idaho’s many bodies of water, hiking, mountain biking, or skiing.