Airbnb has something tangible it can offer people struck by disaster: homes.
The home rental company has urged people who use its platform to offer rooms and entire houses to relief workers and displaced people from hurricanes Harvey and Irma. If hosts waive their nightly fees, so does Airbnb.
So far, more than 1,000 free places to stay have been listed in Texas after Hurricane Harvey hit. And in Florida, more than 230 free listings have been posted on Airbnb since Hurricane Irma swept through the state over the weekend. Airbnb expects the number of listings in Florida to rise once infrastructure, like electricity and running water, come back online.
Proffering free places to stay is part of Airbnb's Disaster Response Program, which locates local temporary housing for people in need. While Airbnb typically aims to make a profit off its home rentals, the company is increasingly offering free services in certain situations. It also has a staffed team dedicated to supporting its disaster relief efforts.
"This is a program that we've been running the last few years and it's within our DNA at Airbnb," Kellie Bentz, Airbnb's head of global disaster response and relief, said during a conference call with reporters. "Our community of hosts are extremely generous."
Airbnb initially created its disaster response tool in the, which left more than 100,000 people homeless in the New York City area in 2012. And more recently, the home rental company offered places to stay to immigrants who were and after the . To date, the program has been "activated" in more than 90 disasters worldwide.
The way the disaster response tool works is Airbnb contacts people in the area asking if they have a room or couch they'd like to offer for free. If Airbnb gets takers, they can list their space on the company's disaster response portal. Those in need can find places to stay on this same portal.
In the case of Hurricane Irma, people stranded can find free Airbnb rooms across Florida, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina and North Carolina. This program started on Sept. 7 and will go through Sept. 28.
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