Airbnb, the online hospitality service, launched the 'Open Homes Platform' which allows volunteers who wish to temporarily open their homes to refugees and people affected by natural disasters. The service opened with the primary objective of providing immediate assistance to those affected will be available free of any expenditure.
The company has been doubling as a community providing emergency home-sharing services at no cost across several areas around the globe in as many as 65 emergencies, and has now launched a formal portal where volunteers would be able to help more readily. When Superstorm Sandy hit the U.S. East Coast in 2012, where thousands of people had become homeless overnight. It was one New York host on Airbnb who had a great idea. She wanted to volunteer her spare bedrooms and she didn’t want to get paid for it.
This was the trigger for Airbnb to formulate the new service. Joe Gebbia, founder of Airbnb writes in a blog post, "We realized when she emailed us the idea that we didn’t have a system in place to allow volunteering of rooms for free. That’s what started a 24-hour engineering marathon to create that capability."
The move enabled the creation of the company's 'Disaster Response Tool' which helped raise a community of hosts who were willing to share their homes at the most difficult of scenarios. The tool which came with a 24-hour customer service which further made it easier for volunteers. "So for the last five years as great as the growth of our host community has been, we realized we could take it to a whole other level simply by shifting from being reactive to being proactive. No waiting around for the crisis to hit, but to anticipate and harness this natural generosity on a daily basis," adds Gebbia.
While the platform is open for help only to refugees and evacuees, for the time being, Airbnb is trying to increase its community to reach out to others who might need temporary accommodation for several other reasons.