Airbnb may be based on the opposite side of the country, but with its global presence, the company is looking to help east coast residents cope with the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew. On Thursday, Airbnb activated its disaster response program, which involves the availability of more than 3,000 rental homes and apartments throughout Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina completely free of charge for Hurricane Matthew evacuees.
Hosts participating in the program must meet two criterion — first, they must not be in the path of the dangerous storm, and second, they will allow guests to stay with them for free until the danger has passed. For those living in South Carolina, the projected date for the all-clear is October 11, whereas for Florida and Georgia, it’s October 12 and 13, respectively. It’s definitely a respectable gesture from Airbnb, but even more so from the generous hosts, who won’t receive anything in return except for Airbnb voiding any service fees. “Our hosts do this because they want to help those in need,” Airbnb spokesperson Nick Shapiro said in an interview with Wired.
Accommodations for those fleeing the storm range from a couch to a whole villa, but in situations like these, safety trumps all else. In a statement given to ABC News, 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.”
This isn’t the first time Airbnb has made an effort to provide aid in times of crisis. When Hurricane Sandy struck New York, some 1,400 New York hosts opened their doors for free. And in 2013, Airbnb made it easier for hosts to connect with those in need — as Patrick Meier, a humanitarian technology expert told Wired, “Airbnb changed its code order to allow people to rent out their place for zero dollars, because you could not do that otherwise.”
In the last three years, Airbnb and its community of hosts have provided free shelter in more than 20 instances, ranging from natural disasters like floods and earthquakes to terrorist attacks like those in Paris and Brussels.
“Our thoughts continue to be with everyone impacted by the storm,” Shapiro concluded, “And we thank the dedicated government and emergency response personnel who are keeping our communities safe.”