As Hurricane Florence barrels toward the East Coast, many residents are evacuating areas expected to be hit hard by the Category 3 storm. For those without a place to ride out the storm, Airbnb — and its hosts — are opening their doors.
Airbnb has activated its “Open Homes” program to “displaced neighbors” and “relief workers deployed to help” during and in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, according to its site.
Airbnb claims over 300 hosts have opened their homes to those in need during Hurricane Florence. The program will be in effect from Sept. 10, 2018, to Oct. 1, 2018, but will be extended if necessary.
The company activates its “response tool” when disasters arise, which contacts hosts in or nearby the impacted area asking if they have any space to share with those displaced.
Hosts within the affected area can opt in to list their homes for $0 by visiting pages dedicated to an event that is covered by the “Open Homes” program and signing up their home. Airbnb waives its booking fees, making the listing completely free for those in need.
Hosts can limit the frequency and duration with which they choose to offer their homes to guests within the program.
Those in need of housing must create an Airbnb account, or log into their existing one, then, if they are located in the affected area, can view $0 listings by clicking “Find Shelter” on the disaster’s response page.
The company does note that any reservation reported to be made by a non-evacuee, “will be cancelled and guests must leave the listing immediately.”
According to the company’s site, the program has been in place since 2012 and has helped thousands of people “find safe, welcoming places to stay while they rebuild their lives after natural disasters, wars, conflict and other events.”
The program was an “idea that we got from one of our hosts in Brooklyn in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy,” Kim Rubey, the head of Social Impact and Philanthropy at Airbnb, told CBS News.
Rubey further explained that the program is a way for everyday people watching the news, who may not know how to help during a disaster, to provide, “concrete, tangible help in a time of need.”
While the focus of the program is on helping those displaced from natural disasters, the company is also working with resettlement agencies who book spaces for refugees to stay, as well as testing the program for people traveling for medical needs.
Rubey says Airbnb has activated “Open Homes” well over 100 times in 50 countries and territories around the world since the program’s creation. Past disasters include Hurricane Harvey last summer and the earthquake in Central Mexico last fall.
While those fleeing Hurricane Florence, and the relief workers attempting to help with the aftermath, may have many things on their minds, Airbnb is trying to be sure a place to stay isn’t one of them.