Local Build May 07, 2020

Local Habitats respond to call for personal protective equipment (PPE) in their communities

Anyone who visits a Habitat build site will quickly see — our staff and volunteers are a tough and dedicated bunch. They build year-round, rain or shine (sometimes even snow!), to ensure families can move into their homes as soon as possible. Not much will stop them from giving back to the community, and that’s become even more evident in recent weeks.

Like many organizations across Canada, and around the world, local Habitat for Humanity organizations have either halted or vastly altered their operations for the safety of staff and volunteers amidst the spread of COVID-19. That includes closing many build sites to volunteers, and many Habitat ReStores to volunteers and the public.

Habitat for Humanity ReStores are home and building supply stores that accept and resell quality new and used building materials as well as furniture, appliances, home accessories, and much more. The money generated is used to fund local Habitat for Humanity homebuilding projects and operations. Closing the ReStores, while necessary to ensure the health and safety of the community, is having a signficant impact on local Habitats across Canada. But closing build sites and ReStores hasn’t stopped local Habitats from doing what they do best – giving back to the community.

“As so many of us are confined to our homes, we’re reminded of the importance of a safe and decent place to take refuge,” says Julia Deans, President and CEO of Habitat for Humanity Canada.

Habitat for Humanity Greater Ottawa’s Director of ReStores, Alan Avis, said it was difficult to close their doors in March. But when they did, it freed up even more personal protective equipment (PPE) like N95 masks, disposable gloves and body suits for healthcare professionals working on the front lines.

“We felt it was our responsibility to redistribute this essential protective equipment and make it available to healthcare workers,” says Avid. And they’re not the only local Habitat that has responded to government calls.

Habitat Regina has donated N95 masks and filters — typically used on build sites to protect against sawdust and debris — through the new procurement program offered by the Government of Saskatchewan. And as of mid-April, Habitat Heartland Ontario had already redirected over 2000 masks and 1400 coveralls to hospitals, nursing and retirement homes, and other healthcare facilities across the London, Ontario region. The product is a combination of their own supplies, previously reserved for staff and volunteers, and donations from members of the community, which they will continue to facilitate as the product becomes available.

Other local Habitats are also finding innovative ways to respond to the country’s need for PPE, like Habitat Waterloo Region, which has already helped deliver tens of thousands of face shields for healthcare workers using their ReStore truck.

All of these actions are important, not only in addressing the immediate healthcare crisis, but also keeping staff and volunteers active and engaged, so when local Habitats can safely resume build site and ReStore activities, they have the support they need to continue working toward a world where everyone has a safe and decent place to live — which will be even more critical in the months to come.

“As so many of us are confined to our homes, we’re reminded of the importance of a safe and decent place to take refuge,” says Julia Deans, President and CEO of Habitat for Humanity Canada. “Unfortunately, that’s not a reality for many families across the country. Too many struggled with unsafe and overcrowded housing conditions before this crisis began, and now even more families are facing an uncertain future due to the economic impact of COVID-19.”

Find your local Habitat to learn more about their response to COVID-19, and what you can do to help families impacted in your community.