Airbnb, a service that coordinates vacation lodgings in the private homes of hosts, has announced that it’s waiving the fees for people fleeing from Hurricane Harvey on the lower Texas coast. The service connects displaced local residents, as well as emergency workers and volunteers, with local Airbnb hosts who open their homes free of charge.
Kellie Bentz, head of Global Disaster Response and Relief, says, “One of the programs we provide is activating our hosts [who] open their homes for zero dollars for those that evacuate, for responders that are deploying in to prepare to respond, or that will be responding.” She says the program gives refugees a place to stay for “a few nights to a few weeks” while they get back on their feet.
Airbnb's Disaster Response Program has been activated in San Antonio, Austin, and DFW to help storm evacuees from now through September 1. “We will reassess after the storm has made impact to determine where else hosts may want to activate,” Bentz says, “to be able to open their homes to those displaced.”
Bentz points out that Airbnb’s Disaster Response and Relief Program began in the wake of another storm. “This program was launched back in 2012 after Hurricane Sandy [when] our hosts reached out and asked how could they open their homes for zero dollars,” she recalls. “That capability wasn’t there” at the time, so Airbnb had an “engineer team” create it. Since then, they’re responded to “75 disasters worldwide,” Bentz says.
More information is available at airbnb.com/disaster response.