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Habitat for Humanity continues to build despite COVID challenges

Biloxi-Gulfport WLOX logo Biloxi-Gulfport WLOX 5/23/2022 Mike Lacy
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HARRISON COUNTY, Miss. (WLOX) - Like any other business, Habitat for Humanity of the Mississippi Gulf Coast has struggled through the pandemic and the ripple effects.

But, despite the challenges, the organization has reinvented itself and reprioritized its efforts without abandoning its fundamental goal: to help provide people affordable housing.

For people like Dedra Cuevas and her family, the long nightmare for began in October 2020. Her life-long home on Lobouy Road in Harrison County was destroyed by Hurricane Zeta.

“Tornado. Actually, a tree got thrown into the house,” she said. “We were in the house. Survived it. Huge blessing for us that we all made it out alive.”

The road to recovery has been arduous.

“It has been a long journey,” Cuevas said. “I didn’t have any insurance. So, I battled that and trying to get funding and trying to get everything started to get the demo on the old house to get it torn down and cleaned up and then try to move on to the building process.”

That’s where help came in.

“Luckily, I was blessed with Habitat for Humanity helping me out with that process.”

Now, her new home is beginning to come together.

However, it wasn’t just luck that made this happen. Habitat was in a crisis itself because of the pandemic and its long-term effects.

“Supply chain issues, shingles - the availability of shingles or windows,” said Chris Monforton, CEO of Habitat for Humanity Mississippi Gulf Coast. “And the cost of materials.”

On top of that, funding sources began to dry up. As a result, fundamental changes had to be made.

It made Cuevas a little nervous.

“I was like, whoa, because you can’t do the volunteering any more, which was a lot of help,” she said. “And it helped knock down the cost of things.”

That’s not the only thing that has changed.

“Not every single thing we do is a new home build,” Monforton said. “We’ve really started to put more emphasis on repair projects.”

Big on that list is doing energy audits.

“And evaluate are there things we can change by adding attic insulation or changing the windows or putting caulking and sealing around air infiltration areas,” he said.

Cuevas has been blessed to get a new home in this time of reevaluation, and according to her, she knows it.

“It’s going to be an overwhelming joy,” she said. “Lots of tears, because this has been a heck of a journey.”

Monforton said that another change by Habitat has been the online component for consultations.

He said while Habitat relies now on subcontractors for the work right now, volunteers will be used again because he knows how important they are to develop a connection to the community.

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