Habitat for Humanity’s mission continues despite pandemic challenges

COVID-19 restrictions, increased demand for building supplies have made it harder to build homes

ROANOKE, Va. – Throughout the pandemic, local non-profits have had to balance meeting growing community needs while still operating safely.

It is a challenge Habitat for Humanity in the Roanoke Valley has had to navigate as they build affordable housing and as our 7th “Home for Good” project kicks off this week.

Last year, the coronavirus outbreak put construction activity on hold for Habitat’s backbone: its volunteers.

“At first, we just closed down to volunteers altogether,” said Gina Dunnavant, Volunteer Manager for Habitat for Humanity in the Roanoke Valley. “For two months, we didn’t use any outside help in any of our build sites and also in the ReStore. So it was staff run only.”

Habitat staff still finished two homes in that time, but for an organization that relies on volunteer labor to keep its homes affordable, the pandemic has had a big impact.

“We’ve tried to spread out over more houses with smaller group sizes,” said Brian Clark, Construction Director for Habitat. “We try to do more outside, working in different rooms. Lots of hand sanitizer, of course, and masks as everyone is having to do.”

As statewide COVID-19 restrictions ease, volunteer numbers are gradually increasing, but the pandemic has also made it harder to get supplies to build a home.

“Things that used to be so easy: you know, you show up to get materials, they’re not there. You schedule something, it’s delayed. All of those things are really hitting the construction industry hard,” Clark said.

Despite the obstacles, Habitat is still set to build 8-10 homes this year as they work to provide safe, affordable housing for families in our area.

“It’s hard right now to kind of keep things on track and keep everybody safe but so far we’re working. It’s just a little bit slower,” Clark said.

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