HELENA — For the last three months, Helena Area Habitat for Humanity building sites have been quieter than usual. When COVID-19 restrictions went into effect in March, the organization asked volunteers and the families who will move into the new homes to stay away temporarily.
“We’re really relying on both the owner-builders – who commit a year of their lives to building – but also to groups of volunteers, so not having that steady group of volunteers has been a real challenge,” said executive director Jacob Kuntz.
Since then, Habitat has been gradually ramping up its operations again. At first, Habitat staff continued the work. Families returned several weeks later, and some long-term volunteers are now also assisting.
“We’ve been able to maintain forward momentum, and we’re looking to actually be not too far behind on getting these homes finalized and get the families moved in,” Kuntz said.
Habitat is currently putting finishing touches on a group of homes they’ve been building in Mountain View Meadows. Those homes are set to be dedicated at an event on July 13.
COVID-19 delayed Habitat’s YouthBuild program, a partnership with Career Technical Institute. The teens in that program have been going through instruction for the last few weeks, and they will return to construction sites in mid-July.
Kuntz said mid-July is also when Habitat will resume allowing groups of volunteers to work on their homes. They are planning to raise walls on a new group of houses in the Red Fox Meadows subdivision in the Helena Valley.
“We’re going to have a reduced volunteer size of eight people in a group of volunteers so we can maintain social distancing on site,” said Kuntz. “We have some pretty strict protocols for making sure we’re keeping people healthy.”
If you are interested in volunteering with Habitat later this summer, you can find more information on the organization’s website.
Over the last few years, Helena Area Habitat for Humanity has been trying to increase the number of houses it works on. Kuntz said the COVID-19 situation has only highlighted the need for affordable housing in the area.
“We really couldn’t build enough,” he said. “I have 130 families waiting for homes, and there’s a lot more than that who are desperately in need of decent housing.”