January 24, 2020 | Peter Brown
The world looks a lot different than it did just a few months ago. Everyone, in some or many ways, has felt the impact of COVID-19 and during these uncertain times, having a safe and affordable place to call home is more important than ever. Here at Habitat Charlotte Region, our mission to build strength, stability and self-reliance through homeownership has not changed, however the work to get there looks a little different these days.
Josh Turner, Director of New Construction, says his team was grateful to still have work to do, but was apprehensive about what it would look like to be out among the general public; often to get building materials and supplies for the construction site. And not having volunteers on site was a hard pill for the team to swallow. The thousands of volunteers who lend their time to building and repairing homes are the heartbeat of what we do so the team had to get used to building with fewer hands and new procedures to keep themselves and their teammates safe.
New construction and Critical Home Repair (CHR) field staff were combined into five teams of seven or less across our service region and each team was assigned specific jobs to do. Josh says this was done to silo each team from the others as much as possible to limit the chances of spreading illness. The teams also began working four 10-hour work days to give staff an extra day apart as well as allowing the job sites to have 72 hours to naturally disinfect.
Additional changes were adopted in early April, with the creation of a COVID safety policy that each field staff and HabiCorps member had to adhere to. The construction department also instituted a daily self-check form using an app to make sure team members were staying safe and healthy. Each team member is asked a set of questions to make sure they are not displaying symptoms of the virus, have been around anyone who has tested positive and agree to safety protocol including social distancing to the greatest extent possible, wearing masks whenever this is not possible and wearing gloves whenever possible. Keeping the teams supplied with PPE and sanitation supplies has been difficult however shared tools and equipment are wiped down at the beginning and end of the day and there are designated hand washing areas on each site as team members are encouraged to wash their hands frequently.
Not only has Josh and his team had to distance themselves from each other and volunteers, but also the homeowners they usually interact with from the beginning of construction to the day the homeowner moves in. Now, once the homes are completed, virtual walk-throughs are conducted with the homeowner and all high-touch surfaces are thoroughly cleaned before handing over the keys.
This new way of building homes during a pandemic brought about challenges the construction team had to overcome and persevere through. The team is working hard to get families into their homes as quickly as possible, knowing that having a safe and affordable place to call home is critical during this challenging time. Since March, nine homeowners have moved into their new homes and two more will move in over the next few weeks. Our community of volunteers and homeowners are sorely missed and during this time of uncertainty, we remain hopeful that some day very soon we will all be together again.
We will build back from the impacts of COVID-19, but could use your help.