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Habitat 'working one-on-one' to keep families housed during pandemic
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Habitat 'working one-on-one' to keep families housed during pandemic

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Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville still is moving area families into new homes despite the novel coronavirus pandemic. The organization currently is working on wrapping up about 10 builds.

For Hashmatullah Ibrahimi and his family, being able to finally get a house makes him feel like “the luckiest guy.”

The Ibrahimis are one of three families that have worked with Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville who have been able to move into new homes during the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown.

Ibrahimi, who was a U.S. interpreter in Afghanistan, moved to Charlottesville in late 2014 and applied to be part of Habitat’s homebuyers program in 2015.

“Now this is my house nobody can tell me, ‘Don’t put your bike there, don’t do that inside or outside,’” Ibrahimi said. “I’m saving my money, too.”

Earlier this month, Habitat’s board passed an interim mission statement and a plan for the pandemic, which includes wrapping up almost-finished builds, supporting Southwood residents and families and directing resources where they are most needed in the community.

The plan does mean changes to some brick-and-mortar operations, such as the ReStore, and redeploying those resources elsewhere.

“For example, we can’t keep our store open,” Dan Rosensweig, local Habitat president and CEO, said. “But we have people that work at the store and we have resources, we have two box trucks at the store. So we’re working with Meals on Wheels to utilize our driver and the box truck to deliver meals [to their clients] every two weeks.”

Habitat also is receiving a $143,748 grant from the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation’s Community Emergency Response Fund to help Habitat waive two months of rent, water and sewer charges for residents of the Southwood Mobile Home Park during the pandemic.

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Rosensweig said that the grant, combined with Habitat tightening its belt on operations and having some money deferred by a Small Business Association administration loan, is helping the organization waive the rents. He said they’re reaching out to all families to see what they need.

“In some cases, families are fine, [but] the data has shown both at Southwood and in our general population about 45% to 50% of the people have either lost their jobs or had their hours cut, and the vast majority of the other 50% are people who are working on the front lines or in indispensable jobs, but are sort of in harm’s way,” he said.

One local woman in Habitat’s homebuyers program was hospitalized with COVID-19, he said. Her children went to live with her mother in Fluvanna County.

“So we’ve arranged to have food brought out to her family,” Rosensweig said. “And so it’s kind of taking a retail approach and working one-on-one to make sure that all of our families stay housed and stay housed as well as possible during this time and are supported.”

Habitat is partnering with Cville Craft Aid to help make and distribute thousands of protective masks that may help protect against the transmission of coronavirus.

Some of build sites remain operational with staff following social distance guidelines as they complete tasks, such as painting trim at one staff member’s home and returning to the site alone to put it on the house.

“We’ve been trying to prioritize homes where families were days or weeks away from having their homes complete,” Rosensweig said. “We’ve been trying to prioritize those, and also prioritize the situations where the families were in the worst housing situation.”

There are about 10 homes that Habitat is actively working to finish.

“It’ll obviously slow us down quite a bit, but, but we’re going to try to get as much done as we can,” he said. “It sort of depends on how long the crisis lasts.”

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