While Hurricane Dorian sat atop the Bahamas and buried two-thirds of Grand Bahama Island in water, more than a million Americans in North Carolina, Florida, and Georgia were under mandatory evacuation orders from coastal counties. Nearly all headed north and inland, seeking refuge with families, in shelters and hotels, or anywhere they can find it.
Popular home-share host Airbnb is doing its part, with a program called Open Homes. Under Open Homes, Airbnb hosts can offer their short-term rental spaces to evacuees for free. Sometimes those spaces are a spare apartment, an in-law unit, or even a bedroom in a family home. The program was started after the massive evacuations before and following Hurricane Sandy, in 2012, when Airbnb hosts took the initiative to organize and offer free stays on their own.
“Typically when there is something of this magnitude with this scale of evacuations, this is perfect for what our hosts are able to offer which is a few nights to a few weeks,” said Kellie Bentz, the global head of Airbnb Disaster Response and Relief. “I think a lot of people want to give back and they don’t know how and they find this way is a unique way to do that.”
Over 1,300 hosts opened their homes under Open Hones when it went live on September 2, and it will run for two weeks, through September 16.
Immediately, almost all of the offered spaces were snapped up by storm refugees, and the company is soliciting more. Many of the hosts are donating their space for free, but when demand outstrips supply, Airbnb is covering the costs for evacuees, with assistance from a number of partner nonprofits.
To find an Open Homes accommodation if you are a Dorian evacuee, click here.
To offer a space if you are an Airbnb host in a safe part of Florida, Georgia, Alabama, North or South Carolina, or Tennessee, click here.