You may not know what you have been preparing for your entire life until it hits you. However, people who actively live by their values may find they are prepared for the unexpected. This is the case for Mountain View Friends Meeting and their choice to provide Frontline Housing during the pandemic.

Support for those on the front line

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused most of us to pivot in some way, even if we have not been hit with illness. For now, we cannot gather together and even have to keep our distance on the street. People are struggling with childcare and schools are closed. Some people are losing jobs and businesses are threatened.

Medical professionals, our frontline defense against the virus, are among the hardest hit and the hardest at work. Doctors and nurses have been coming out of retirement. Healthcare staff scramble for personal protective equipment (PPE) and the space to treat sick people. Areas in crisis are trying to figure out how to enlist more medical staff.

Medical personnel (and other essential workers) are also worried about their own health and the health of their households. Their dedication to their work is what is saving the rest of us. But, it also means that their families and households are at much greater risk than those of us who can stay home.

This is where Frontline Houses comes in. The idea started in Arizona with a nurse who’d been in the Ebola pandemic. He quickly realized that during this pandemic frontline medical personnel need ways to keep their households safe.  One answer is to find a separate place to live, with protocols to keep the living space safe. He converted his rental into housing for himself and another nurse who are working with COVID-19 patients. They set up rules and a routine to keep themselves as healthy as possible, while also separating themselves from others.

Denver locals jump into action

Luckily for Denver, the Arizona nurse is a friend of Diane D’Angelo, a hospice chaplain and member of Mountain Views Friends Meeting, a Quaker community in Denver. Diane is a lifetime activist and saw an opportunity to help.

In response to the stay-at-home order in Denver, faith communities have had to shut their doors to group gatherings. Diane realized that the Mountain View Friends Meeting House could have a new, temporary purpose and she presented the idea to the community that they use the meeting house as frontline healthcare worker housing.

The community had concerns about the virus and contamination, especially since many members are older. (Older adults are not automatically more susceptible, but are more likely to have underlying conditions that can make contracting the virus more dangerous.) One member pointed out it is exactly because of this vulnerability that they should be the ones to do this. As older adults, he felt that they owe it to frontline workers to help. The community discerned that this was what they wanted to do.

In the course of just a week, volunteers converted the meeting house into living quarters for three, including adding a washer and dryer. The house has a front and back porch where residents can meet with family at an appropriate distance. Residents agree to follow guidelines, which helps keep the workers and community safe. Residents stay there free of charge. So far, one local nurse has moved in.

Determination, expertise, & time

This is a grassroots effort, neighbors helping neighbors. Frontline Housing does not have an overarching organization, but word is spreading. Diane and others from her community are consulting with other groups, locally and nationally, who want to provide Frontline Housing. Their ad hoc committee is documenting what they did so others do not have to “reinvent the wheel”.

According to Diane, one of the reasons this came together so quickly is because many of those involved are retired or semi-retired. The key players in the conversion of the meeting house are all over 50 years of age. Quakers believe strongly in living their values and later life does not mean you sit around, but instead have extra time to be of service. With their dedication, time and decades of experience, these volunteers are perfectly situated for making things like this happen.

In this time of fear and uncertainty, this group of older people shows what community and dedication to values can accomplish.

Read more about how older adults are part of the solution during the pandemic.

Sara Breindel, Changing the Narrative blogger


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