Airbnb has a history of proactively working with its hosts to offer temporary housing in order to help those displaced by crisis. When Superstorm Sandy hit the East Coast in 2012, it created the Disaster Response Tool. Earlier this year, the company offered free housing to those in limbo due to Trump’s executive orders that suspended refugee admission and travel to the US from seven majority-Muslim nations. Today, the home-sharing company is launching Open Homes, a platform that aims to unite and simplify its humanitarian efforts under one program to let people host refugees, evacuees, and others in times of need, for free.
Airbnb lets anyone sign up for Open Homes and set parameters for how they choose to participate (days the home is available, number of people to host, etc.). It currently lists two primary causes for hosts to support — refugees and evacuees — and hosts will then be matched with trusted organizations like the International Rescue Committee (IRC) that specialize in these areas of need. The organizations are responsible for vetting the individuals they place, and then making the bookings.
Open Homes solves many of the logistical problems Airbnb has faced in trying to help refugees in the past, most notably the manual matching between hosts and those who are displaced. Airbnb’s approach is not the first to match those who need aid with housing — joining the ranks of organizations like France’s SIGNA and UK-based Refugees at Home — but it is the most cohesive and simplified approach the company has presented to date. It also allows for a faster process to match those in need with homes, meaning fewer missed opportunities to help in real time.
As of now, there are 6,000 listings available for use on Open Homes around the world, half of which are offered by individuals who are not existing Airbnb hosts, but simply have a desire to help. Airbnb’s five-year goal is to provide free short-term housing to 100,000 people in need.