Airbnb hosts opening their hearts — and doors — to refugees fleeing Ukraine

(NEW YORK) — The Russian invasion of Ukraine has displaced thousands of people, many of whom are fleeing to nearby Poland and elsewhere. Now Airbnb.org — the non-profit wing of the popular home-sharing company — is stepping up to help.

Airbnb.org’s Open Homes Initiative got its “unofficial” start in 2012, and has since spread all over the world, Joe Gebbia, co-founder and chairman of Airbnb.org tells ABC Audio.

“[W]hen Hurricane Sandy hit…the Eastern seaboard and displaced a lot of people, the next day we get an email from one of our hosts who says, ‘Dear Airbnb, how do I offer my five guest rooms, my Brooklyn loft for free to those displaced by the hurricane?"” Gebbia recalls. “At the time, we had no way to actually facilitate that.” 

“But after a 48-hour engineering marathon [fueled by] Red Bull and pizzas,” Gebbia says, they reconfigured their site and “within about a day or so” had hundreds of rooms available.

“For the last 10 years, we’ve been active in well over 100 countries supporting people fleeing typhoons, wildfires, hurricanes, floods,” he says. “It’s been incredible to see how our host community has to date housed over 100,000 people already all over the world.”

As for Ukraine, Gebbia says, “[S]o many lives have been disrupted with these scenes unfolding of the violence happening there. And I think this will likely produce one of the largest humanitarian crises since likely since World War II.”

Gebbia says the non-profit has offered governments of neighboring countries to help house Ukrainian refugees in hosts’ homes, with the goal of housing up to 100,000 people fleeing Ukraine.

“We’re doing everything we can to use our infrastructure to help, but we need more hosts,” he says.

If you’d like to help, visit Airbnb.org.

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