Members of Mountain View Friends Meeting, a Quaker congregation in south Denver, are opening their currently vacant meeting hall to doctors and other first responders who are on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic and need a home away from home.
“We’re doing it because not only are doctors, CNAs, pharmacists, etc., having to worry about getting [COVID-19] themselves, they have the additional concern of bringing it home to family members when they get off work,” says Mountain View Friends Meeting member Diane D’Angelo. “By offering a place where they can stay with other health-care professionals, that would minimize that concern.”
At a meeting on March 24, the congregation decided to open up its meeting house, since members cannot gather there now.
“The meeting house is vacant, as are most churches right now, so why not, right?” D’Angelo asks. “It’s a perfectly reasonable place. ... We are getting our ducks in a row, and I am starting to spread the word, because we want to make it possible for folks to start moving in next week.”
Mountain View is following the guidelines of the recently formed Frontline Houses movement that started in Phoenix, with a housing stock for health-care professionals primarily comprising churches and private homes. The principles of the movement include a devotion to infection control, a commitment to look out for one another’s emotional and spiritual health, transparency about one’s own health, and caring for the sick.
The principles also call for a commitment to economic justice, meaning that if someone does charge for a living space, the amount must be reasonable and not amounting to “disaster capitalism,” according to the Phoenix Frontline Houses Facebook group.
“Phoenix is a little different,” D’Angelo says. “Down there, it’s primarily individual homes that people are offering up. People can't make money off of this, they can't make bank off of health-care workers. If you are charging, don't gouge. In Phoenix, people are either giving it up for free, or they're charging no more than $400 a month.”
D’Angelo says that health-care workers will not be charged to stay at the Mountain View meeting house, but they must agree to shower after every shift, wipe down household surfaces, record and post their temperatures on a whiteboard on a daily basis, and agree to care for each other if they do get sick.
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The Quakers have a long history of involvement in social-justice causes in the United States, including the abolitionist movement. In recent years, Mountain View Friends Meeting has been part of the metro Denver sanctuary movement that helps immigrants facing deportation orders. For a time, Mountain View housed Ingrid Encalada Latorre, a Peruvian immigrant and immigrant-rights advocate currently fighting a deportation order.
“We are pacifists,” D’Angelo says. “This is a way to put our principles into action.”
At least two other Denver churches are considering opening up to health-care workers, she notes. “Our hope is that with these vacant church buildings, we can do something with them,” D'Angelo concludes. “It makes perfect sense. A lot of health-care professionals are going to end up taking care of us, so quid pro quo, right?”
To apply for a space at the Mountain View Friends meeting house, contact D'Angelo at Dangelo.firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, go to the Denver Frontline Houses movement Facebook page.