TUCSON, Ariz. — The coronavirus pandemic and other natural disasters have affected millions of Americans, and now the owners of Airbnb homes are opening their doors for those in need.
The company started Airbnb.org to help facilitate the process. The nonprofit has been in the works for nearly eight years.
Kristen Berlacher runs the organization, and she said the program is growing. So far, more than 100,000 homeowners in the United States and around the world have offered up a free place to host 75,000 people who needed help, and 300 of them are in Arizona. They also partner with other nonprofits to find hot spots.
"It started with a single host in New York City after Hurricane Sandy. We work with local governments to understand the needs on the ground, and then we partner directly with our host community to see if they are willing and able to offer their homes for free or at a discount," Berlacher said.
It’s essential for health care workers who can't be at home with their loved ones. Guests can stay anywhere from two weeks to a month, depending on availability and the host's agreement. The nonprofit is hoping to get more owners to open their doors.
"Hosts agree to a number of enhanced cleaning protocols. One thing that's really neat about this program is that you really don't have to be a regular Airbnb host. So, anyone who has extra space that they are willing to open can go to Airbnb.org to sign up. Because of COVID, right now we are limiting stays to entire homes or apartments only," Berlacher said.
The organization is also working on expanding funding to cover stays for frontline workers as hotspots are identified. For those interested in participating as a host or occupant, there is an application process to qualify.
"For folks that have that extra space and would like to get involved, this is a really unique way for people to have an impact and to give back," Berlacher said.