Coronavirus: Habitat for Humanity continues mission, careful to adhere to guidelines amid COVID-19 pandemic


KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – With social distancing being enforced statewide, Knoxville’s Habitat for Humanity has had to slow down construction of its homes.

But that does not mean building has stopped.

WATE 6 On Your Side’s Don Dare visited a home on Thursday where a skeleton crew at work.

Habitat for Humanity depends on volunteers, lots of them, to help with various phases of construction. The crew bosses provide supervision.

But Habitat is having to follow guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for keeping people apart to slow the spread.

That means, for the time being, Habitat’s army of workers, the volunteers, cannot participate.

It will take longer than normal, but the build continues on a Habitat for Humanity house in East Knoxville. The first phase of placing vinyl siding on the home started Friday morning.

What’s different about this build project is that only four skilled workers are on the site. There will be no volunteers adding their hands. This skeleton crew will complete the build by themselves.

Habitat for Humanity, like most nonprofits and many for-profit businesses, was directed to reduce social contact and to follow social distancing guidelines to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

“Between now and the end of June, we had six more homes to start. Of course, that will now be adjusted, The intent is to be safe. We are just blessed that construction is considered essential and we are still able to be out here moving forward and showing progress to the families showing we are committed to them,” Kelle Shultz, president of Knoxville Habitat for Humanity, said.

University of Tennessee students had committed hundreds of volunteer hours to complete this home.

In the past, UT students have worked on a number of Habitat houses in East Tennessee. Due to the pandemic, however, students are not on campus. Even though many have called saying they’d prefer to be volunteering.

Also, some donors have had to withdraw their funding due to the national crisis, according to Shultz. Habitat is reaching out letting everyone know they are still in business, trying to build houses for those who need them.

“Our development team has been making calls to our volunteers and to our donors, just to check in,” Shultz said. “To say ‘hi, do you need anything? We are here for you.’ That team has made over a thousand calls this past week.”

Finishing construction on current build projects will take longer with families ready to move in. Habitat is turning its attention to the future when the virus is behind us.

Habitat homeowners help build their own homes alongside volunteers.

Over the last 35 years, in the Knoxville area, 600 new Habitat homes have been constructed.

Funding these homes comes from payments, donations from individuals as well as corporations, foundations and the government. Local leaders at Habitat said they know this is a difficult time for everyone, but they say they remain dedicated to completing the homes under construction for the families who will be moving in.

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