Habitat for Humanity inhabits COVID-19 problem solving

By Ava Turner

Elm Staff Writer

On Wednesday Nov. 11, Washington College’s Habitat for Humanity hosted a talk by Adrienne Melendez, ‘05 on housing insecurities, such as evictions and homelessness, and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security act, a government aid response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Melendez is a Washington College alumnus, who according to the club’s Instagram works “for the Veteran Affairs central office and AmeriCorps,” with focuses in housing and economic development. 

According to habitat.org, “Habitat for Humanity is a nonprofit organization that helps families build and improve places to call home. [They] believe affordable housing plays a critical role in strong and stable communities.”

At the start of her presentation Melendez said that the conversation of housing has five framings. The first being that “there is not a ‘one size fits all’ response,” to issues regarding housing. Second there is a “need to see from multiple dimensions and perspectives,” when coming up with contingency planning. Then there is the issue that “social challenges have been exacerbated during the global pandemic.” Next there is the notion that “we have an opportunity to innovate,” and come up with new ideas and technologies. And lastly there is the reality that “housing and homelessness are complex issues.”

Amidst the global pandemic, there have been several issues that have popped up for Habitat for Humanity national organization.

Melendez said the main challenge is finding space to house people. With the high velocity spread of COVID-19, there is concern in finding enough housing spaces large enough to accommodate people while decreasing the risk of spread. 

Challenges Habitat for Humanity is currently facing that have arisen during the pandemic are in regard to evictions, unemployment, food insecurity, poverty, financial management, violence, utilities, racial inequality, and social isolation. 

However, Melendez said that members of Habitat for Humanity have not been alone in their endeavors. They have found affiliations with younger volunteers, other non-profit organizations, public-private vectors, universities, national service, and disaster services and homelessness/housing partnerships. 

The CARES act was implemented to provide economic stimulus and relief to citizens in need in reaction to the economic descent at the start of COVID-19 pandemic. 

Melendez said the CARES act has provided three hundred million dollars’ worth of funds for Veteran Affairs. 

“[It’s] super helpful to have [these] additional resources,” she said. 

However, there have been several issues after the presentation of the CARES act. 

Melendez said there is a need to put forth more education on how to receive benefits and restrictions as well as aid for evictions. In regard to the issue of intersections of housing and health, she said the issue “is really coming upfront,” and in need of more focus. 

Melendez concluded her presentation with online resources for helping out to find out more information on housing and homelessness, such as evictionlab.org, the National Low Income Housing Coalition, and habitat.org.

For more information on Habitat for Humanity and future Washington College events, visit Habitat for Humanity’s Instagram @habitat_at_wac.

Featured Photo caption: Adrienne Melendez shares Habitat for Humanity’s plan and struggle to forge on during a global pandemic with WC Community. Photo by Rebecca Kanaskie.

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