The Denver Catholic Worker House
It has been a little over a month since fire destroyed the Denver Catholic Worker house on Welton Street. During this time, we have realized we may be without a house but we are not without community. All the caring ways people have responded remind us community, like a house, is built by many hands and hearts.
We want to thank each and every person who has contributed to our rebuilding effort. People have been very generous, and we cannot express our gratitude enough. Thus far approximately $70,000 has been donated in support of our continued history beyond the 38 years we were located on Welton. We have begun holding planning meetings to determine how best to make use of this and further funding for our future. We are looking to rebuild at a new location with renewed vision and purpose. Your own participation in this ongoing process of discernment and decision-making is encouraged as well as welcome, whether attending meetings if you are able, or sharing your own ideas and imagination, as through online discussions or letter-writing.
Secondly, we’d like to invite each of you to a fundraiser event our friends from the Romero Troupe, and some Catholic Worker allies all the way from Albuquerque, NM are putting on for us on March 20th at 6pm at The First Unitarian Society of Denver. Inscape Ministries will perform a play about the life, thought and spirituality of Dorothy Day, and the Romero Troupe will do one of their well-loved scenes about the struggles of homeless folks in Denver. We’re asking for a donation at the door, but no one will be turned away. If you’re at all curious about the thoughts behind the Catholic Worker Movement, this will be a wonderful time to learn about one of our founders and the theory and the spirit behind our movement. Click the following link for a flier: Theater Fund Raiser 2016
We will continue to provide updates on plans to move forward. Meanwhile, we remain humbled and inspired by the trust you continue to place in the Catholic Worker movement, and in us. Together, we move forward.
We have known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community. – Dorothy Day
Denver Catholic Worker House Fire – A Time to Rebuild
In the early morning hours on Thursday, January 28th, 2015, the Denver Catholic Worker House, a house of hospitality for people experiencing homelessness, caught fire and was burnt out. Fortunately all 12 residents are now safe, one having been hospitalized for smoke inhalation. Although some lost everything, walking out without shoes on, thankfully no one was seriously physically injured. Now we are attempting to put our lives back together, trusting in provision and trying to imagine what it will mean to rebuild.
All 9 of our guests where given vouchers by the American Red Cross which they could use to stay in motels on a temporary basis (we aren’t sure how long). Unfortunately, when these vouchers are used up, neither they, nor our live-in workers will have a home to return to. As is the tradition of the Catholic Worker, volunteers are unpaid and live with our guests in voluntary poverty. As we attempt to think about what our future as a community will look like, the realities of Denver’s unaffordable rental market are very real to our workers as well as our guest. Our entire yearly budget has been about what a small low income family lives off of, and we have been a household of 12 to 15 people. This has been possible, in part, because of the support of our long time landlord. Needless to say, the small amount of reserve money in our bank account will not be sufficient to cover the cost of finding a new home, and at this point we do not believe that we will receive any insurance settlement for our losses.
But, so goes the life of the Catholic Worker. Since our movement began in 1933 in New York City, the 200+ Catholic Worker Communities across the globe have intentionally lived with little more security than the unhoused guests we offer hospitality to. Or at least we strive to live in solidarity with the poor as family and friends, rather than make a profession out of charity. We do not receive any government funding, nor do big businesses tend to support our efforts. So without assurance of the future, our mission does not change – to be a community of hospitality and grace, living simply and attempting to serve and share in the struggle which our sisters and brothers on the streets face daily, trusting in provision and human expressions of love.
As news has gotten out about the fire, we have been reminded by former guests, workers and strangers why our work is so important. There are countless more living without housing within the city of Denver than there are services to help. It has been this way for a long time, only worsening as federal funds for affordable housing have been decimated, while wages have remained flat and rent has increased astronomically. The emergency shelter system is overburdened and degrading, unable to match the needs of the people within the system, offering little more than a cot in a crowded room full of strangers without the promise of future housing options. Along with the burning of the Catholic Worker House came the loss of the only room designated for unhoused couples without children. In other circumstances, men and women would be separated (regardless of commitment) and same sex couples wouldn’t be recognized as partners.
What many have reminded us that the Catholic Worker has offered, since Anna Koop and her friends opened the house in 1978, was a home where people were accepted as friends rather than clients; a home where each person had a door to close and a community to break bread with; a place where justice and peace is practiced not only in demonstrations and vigils, but also in the daily sharing of life together; an anomaly in a society that spends more money on economic development and the incarceration of poor people than it does on providing safe and affordable housing for those struggling through this system. We pray and hope that these priorities change. And we wish to continue to be a part of that change, as co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement Peter Maurin said, “To create a world where it is easier for people to be good.”
Our future does look precarious, but we are attempting to find a way forward together, trusting in provision and the support of others. If you would like to join us in this work, we ask first and foremost that you consider how you might be able to extend hospitality to those without, within your own circumstance. Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement, believed that if each of us took responsibility for each other, there would be no need for impersonal and degrading systems to take care of ‘the poor’. “If youR brother is hungry,” she said, “You feed him. You do not turn him away from your door and say ‘go be thou fed’.” If you would like to open a room up within your own home for someone who is going without housing, and are unable to find someone on your own, please contact us and we will refer someone to you.
If offering a ‘Christ Room’ to someone without housing in your own house is not feasible, and you would like to contribute to the work of our community, we would be grateful for support. As many of our guests are scattered in motel rooms across the city and we ourselves have no room to store blankets and clothing, we cannot accept large donations of physical items. Motel vouchers are greatly appreciated. Many of the guests are in need of clothing, and gift cards to stores like Ross, Target or the ARC are appropriate. Healthy food is a high priority, and gift cards for grocery stores are also welcome.
For years, Denver Food Rescue has delivered leftovers from grocery stores to the Catholic Worker House and we have organized it and redistributed it to low income families living within our neighborhood. Thanks to the Little Flower Catholic Worker House – a new smaller house of hospitality – we will continue this program to the best of our abilities. Kristen, who has spearheaded this effort is welcoming help on Sundays. Also, a permanent live-in worker volunteer opportunity is available at the Little Flower Catholic Worker House. Contact Carol Briggs for more information – 303-377-1894.
Lastly, we would like to open another house soon. We are grateful for any financial contributions and if there is a parish, community, church or individual who is able to donate a property to our efforts, we would be more than happy to speak with you.
Please feel free to contact any of the following people to arrange donations or connect with us.
Anna Koop – 720-940-5482
Marcus Hyde – 303-507-8065
Jennifer Haines – 303-298-9910
Kristen Brunelli (to help with food)- 732-778-8906
Any checks can be made out to The Denver Catholic Worker House and mailed to:
1023 26th Street
Denver Colorado 80205.
You can also make an online contribution at our GoFundMe page, located here:
For now, Mass/Prayer continues at the regular time, Thursdays at 7:30pm, and will be held at 3024 Elizabeth Street. All are welcome, regardless of religious affiliation.
This past Thursday, on the evening of the fire, we read in the scriptures that there will be ‘house for God’s people.’ We understand more now than ever that we must create a sense of home among each other. ‘There are still many for whom there is no room in the inn.’ But there will be a house for the people of God.
Thank you for your prayers and good intentions.
In peace and solidarity,
The Denver Catholic Worker Community
“It is no use saying that we are born 2,000 years too late to give room to Christ. Nor will those who live at the end of the world have been born too late. Christ is always with us, always asking for room in our hearts. But now it is with the voice of our contemporaries that he speaks, with the eyes of store clerks, factory workers, and children that he gazes; with the hands of office workers, slum dwellers, and suburban housewives that he gives. It is with the feet of soldiers and tramps that he walks, and with the heart of anyone in need that he longs for shelter. Giving shelter or food to anyone who asks for it, or needs it, is giving it to Christ.” – Dorothy Day, reprinted from The Catholic Worker