In recent months, we have seen natural disasters displace families across the country. Last year, the Bay Area faced its own natural disaster with the Northern California wildfires. In this time of need individuals stepped up to lend a helping hand, including tech companies like Airbnb.
At a recent panel, “Building Companies With Purpose,” organized by Hustle in partnership with sf.citi, TheBridge, and the Bay Area Council, Airbnb Program Director Adam Thongsavat shared the story of our Open Homes initiative. Following the event, sf.citi asked us to tell them more about Open Homes, a program that allows Airbnb hosts to provide free housing for individuals who have been displaced.
History of Open Homes
The idea for Open Homes didn’t come from Airbnb employees. It all started with a simple question from a host. When Hurricane Sandy hit the New York region in 2012, tens of thousands of people were displaced overnight. One host in Brooklyn wanted to offer her home to neighbors who had to evacuate, but she didn’t want to get paid for it. She asked the Airbnb team if hosting for free was an option. It wasn’t, at least not yet.
Her act of kindness inspired our team to work overnight to re-architect our platform to allow hosts to volunteer their space for free. Once that new platform was live, over 1,000 hosts opened up their homes for Sandy evacuees. One host’s idea sparked what became a global program.
We soon realized this outpouring of generosity wasn’t confined to just one event. Hosts from around the world opened up their doors to people who’d been affected by everything from wildfires—such as last year’s Northern California fires—and droughts, to volcanic eruptions. As our program became more global, we started thinking of other ways hosts could help.
From Local to Global
Displacement wasn’t only a local issue—millions of people around the world are forced to leave their homes because of conflict, illness, or other unexpected situations. And many of them could benefit from having a safe place to stay for a few weeks while they get settled. This, combined with our hosts’ eagerness to help, led us to create Open Homes as it is today.
Open Homes is meant to be a tool for our community to serve all types of displacement. To start, we’re focusing on building programs that can help with disaster relief, refugee resettlement, and medical travel. But we imagine a world where hosts can offer support to an endless number of causes.
So far, hosts have already housed over 11,000 total guests from over 52 different countries. Local Bay Area hosts have also stepped up to do their part. Sefani Tadesse, an Airbnb host in Oakland, opened up her home to two refugee families from Afghanistan and Ethiopia last year.
Hosting Kindness in Your Community
Through initiatives like Open Homes and partnerships with organizations like sf.citi, Airbnb demonstrates that tech companies and their innovative platforms can serve as powerful tools for positive change at both the local and global level.
And just how one host inspired us to create Open Homes, we’re looking for more hosts to help us grow and develop this program. If you’re interested in learning more, you can read more about how the program works and hear from other hosts here.