The pandemic has proved the importance of community. As millions of people quarantined during the initial lockdown, video chat and virtual meetings flourished. As so many found themselves without jobs, neighbors stepped up to safely deliver food and supplies—it seemed like “contactless deliveries” were invented overnight. When it was unsafe to be physically close, people found ways to remain close as a community.
NOAHH has always built communities. The Habitat model relies on connecting people of diverse backgrounds, on building social capital and showing the human side of the need for affordable housing. The pandemic forced the affiliate to redesign almost everything in order to keep the mission alive at such a crucial time.
The New Orleans Habitat Board of Directors and leadership team enacted an Emergency Response Plan on March 13, 2020. The affiliate shutdown operations; everyone who could work from home did so with the intention of finding ways to continue to serve the partner families already in the program. By late May, the offices had been refitted to follow city, state, and federal directives. The ReStores had moved online, and soon reopened to limited capacity. And the construction team had begun training on how to build with new safety protocols.
Though it was one of the most difficult decisions NOAHH had to make, Women Build 2020 was first postponed, then cancelled as the pandemic continued. Though it will look very different, the women of Habitat are determined to make Women Build 2021 a reality. Engagement with the faith community and corporate groups will also return soon, with smaller groups on site.
Partner families range the entire spectrum of the flavor of New Orleans—servers, musicians, bartenders—those that breathe life into the New Orleans and make the city what it is. Many have seen their hours slashed, if not eliminated. Others are working double-time to keep our community safe. The effects of this crisis will have ripple effects for years to come. Inspired by their hard work, New Orleans Habitat has found ways to keep building. This year saw eight partner families achieve their goal of homeownership in spite of everything 2020 has brought, and we expect to build over 20 homes in 2021.
The need for safe, healthy, stable housing is glaringly evident in this time of uncertainty. The board, staff, volunteers, and partner families served by NOAHH remain committed to building communities. Your support makes that possible.
- Like everyone else, NOAHH moved to virtual meetings whenever possible, including intakes for the First-Time Homebuyer’s Program.
- Our Construction team limits the number who work in-doors, and everyone wears masks at all times. Social distancing is practiced as much as possible.
- The offices have new Plexiglas barriers around cubicles. New air filters, hand sanitizing stations, and regular cleanings have been implemented, and staff wear masks in shared spaces.
- NOAHH increased the airflow of the air conditioning system and added ultraviolet lights on the coils.
- Along with offering contactless donation pickups and online stores, the ReStores added Plexiglas barriers, hand sanitizing stations, and capacity controls.
- Volunteer groups were cancelled until spring 2021, at which time the affiliate will reassess. Core volunteers have been welcomed back on site in very small groups, and ReStore volunteers returned in November.