SHARED GENEROSITY

Hundreds of Airbnb hosts are offering free shelter to people affected by disasters in Italy, Louisiana, and California

It sounds almost biblical. More than 300 Airbnb hosts have opened up their homes for free to people wracked by earthquakes, floods, and fires in central Italy, Louisiana, and California, according to listings found on the website.

Homes in central Italy, hit by a 6.2 magnitude earthquake on Aug. 23, are on free offer on the website’s urgent accommodation page between Aug. 23 and Sept. 11. Airbnb accommodations could serve as an alternative to temporary relief camps for the 1,000 residents, whose homes were destroyed as towns were turned to rubble. Accommodation is also available to those affected by floods in Louisiana and prolonged wildfires threatening two Californian counties.

Free accommodation is part of Airbnb’s disaster response program which began in 2013, after hosts in 2012 voluntarily offered a free roof to New York residents affected by Hurricane Sandy, according to the company’s official statement. Airbnb claims that so far more than 3,000 hosts have opened up their homes following 47 emergencies around the world, including the attacks in Paris last year and the attack in Brussels this year.

When disaster hits, the company automatically sends emails to hosts from the area, encouraging them to offer free shelter to those looking for a place to stay, said Airbnb spokesman Nick Shapiro. The company waives service charges that normally apply to these bookings.

There are about 30 listings now offering free emergency shelter in central Italy. (AirBnb.com)
There are about 30 listings now offering free shelter in central Italy. (Airbnb.com)

Earlier in June, Airbnb agreed with the state government of Victoria, Australia, to provide emergency housing to people and emergency responders in case of bush fires, which are common to the region. The company said it coordinated with hosts to provide free accommodation to volunteers who participated in relief work in Nepal, following the earthquake in April 2015.

The company hasn’t yet provided the same emergency accommodation support to those living near Bagan, a popular tourist destination in Myanmar that was hit by a 6.8 magnitude earthquake on the same day as Italy. That earthquake killed three people and damaged over a hundred pagodas in the ancient capital city. “We are working with folks in Myanmar to see if it can help or not,” Shapiro wrote in an email to Quartz. He said Airbnb always discusses with local emergency response authorities about providing support.

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