Airbnb Opens Its Doors to Hurricane Matthew Evacuees for Free
In anticipation of the fury of Hurricane Matthew whipping its way through the Caribbean on Thursday, with its 145 mph winds hitting the southern Atlantic coast millions of people were urged to evacuate their homes – for those living in the coastal areas it was mandatory. The hurricane devastated parts of the Southeast U.S. from Florida to the Carolinas with record-breaking flooding. The devastation to people’s homes left them uninhabitable and many have had to seek shelter in homes and apartments that are not designated as standard disaster relief.
Airbnb has put out the welcome mat and opened its doors, offering over 3,000 accommodations in Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina to Hurricane Matthew evacuees – absolutely free. Hosts have responded to the crisis by offering housing to displaced homeowners and relief workers deployed to help. In order to participate in the program, the homes must not be in the path of the dangerous storm and allow guests to stay with them rent free until they get the all-clear that the danger has passed. South Carolina predicts October 11, Florida anticipates October 12 and Georgia the 13th for residents to safely return. It’s favorable news for Airbnb, which has been in the eye of the media storm for not properly vetting its hosts in the past. Airbnb set up this emergency housing as part of their Disaster Response service, which began in 2013 when Hurricane Sandy hit New York a year earlier. About 1,400 New York Airbnb hosts came to the aid of hurricane victims of their own accord. Since then the organization enforced the program during an emergency, taking it upon themselves to email local hosts with information about how to help and how to offer their extra space to affected community members. Their disaster response tool makes it easy for hosts to list their accommodations and connect with people stranded by disasters. According to the website they have partnered with several government agencies, “Collaborating with regional disaster relief organizations in advance of an event allows us to reach a broader audience and help more people during the actual event. That is why we are pleased to partner with local government agencies and disaster relief organizations to help the Airbnb community and the cities prepare for local emergencies.” Accommodations for those fleeing the storm can range from a couch to a whole villa, but in situations like these, it’s all about safety. In a statement given to ABC News, Airbnb spokesman Nick Shapiro said, “We encourage hosts in safe, inland areas to aid in this effort by listing their available rooms or homes on the platform to help the growing number of evacuees. This is the first major hurricane threat this area has seen in years, and we are hopeful that Airbnb can help play a small part in making the evacuation process easier for residents and their families.” Patrick Meier, a humanitarian technology expert who consults for the World Bank, the Australian Red Cross, and Facebook told Wired Airbnb’s humanitarian response is way ahead of other tech companies reaching out to lend a hand. “We’ve seen time and time again how these technologies and social media platforms have been used in disasters. It saves lives and helps restore livelihoods and so on. But only Airbnb has hired a full-time disaster response person who understands our information needs, the pressures we’re under, how we work as an international humanitarian community.” Since the program began, Airbnb hosts have helped house people displaced by more than 20 disasters, ranging from flooding in Louisiana to earthquakes in Ecuador and Japan, to the terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels. Of course there’s no place like home but in times of trouble staying in someone else’s home free of charge is priceless.
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