For nearly three months, Habitat for Humanity closed their ReStores statewide and turned away volunteers to comply with COVID-19 restrictions. People who would spend every week helping build homes had to be told they could no longer give back to their communities.
With more than three-fourths of their labor gone, construction slowed.
Volunteerism halted when the state of emergency went into effect in March. Kevin Gilmore, Sussex County Habitat for Humanity executive director, said his branch almost stopped building altogether.
Since allowing limited help, Gilmore said they only have about five people at a time at each construction location for proper social distancing, and he sees this being the case moving forward. That pushed back the timeline for many projects in Sussex.
“We will have to limit the number of people on our job sites and that has a direct effect on our ability to build houses,” he said. “It’s hard when we have people who are going to buy our houses that are living in substandard conditions already. This is prolonging that life-changing event for them.”
Gilmore said they rely on businesses, church groups and college students who volunteer in the spring.
In Sussex, there were six houses under construction when the pandemic started. He said all should have been done by now, but only two were completed, one in Ellendale and one in Blades. Two in Ellendale and two in Milton are still underway. Three more were to start during the spring, but those are on hold.