AirBnB hosts are offering their homes to firies and those displaced by bushfires for free

Firefighters monitor bush fires at the Woodford residential area in Blue Mountains on November 12, 2019. (Photo by Saeed KHAN / AFP) Source: AFP

The Open Homes program allows people with a spare room or house to provide emergency accommodation for those displaced by disaster.

AirBnB hosts across New South Wales and Queensland are providing free emergency accommodation to those affected by the devastating bushfires.

The Open Homes initiative allows AirBnB hosts with active listings - or people who just have a spare bed - to offer residents or rescue workers free temporary accommodation.

So far, more than 350 hosts have volunteered their homes for emergency accommodation, according to AirBnB’s Australian country manager Susan Wheeldon. 

“What is astounding is the geographic range of the houses being offered. You’ve got places from south of Bundaberg, Toowoomba, Ballina all the way to places like Coffs Harbour, Bryon Bay and Port Macquarie,” Ms Wheeldon told The Feed.

Upon hearing that AirBnB was extending its Open Homes program, New South Wales mum Abbi Mieog raced to offer her Lismore loft space to those in need.

“Normally, I would consider joining SES but as a stay at home mum looking after two small children I don’t have much free time to go somewhere to help,” Ms Mieog told The Feed.

Lismore City Council has issued an evacuation warning for some of the areas surrounding the suburb of Goonellabah, where Ms Mieog’s loft is located, with displaced residents encouraged to take shelter at local showgrounds.

“I heard the showgrounds was getting a few families and they have found it cold at night. I have young kids so I can imagine how it may be if we were the ones needing help,” Ms Mieog said.

Ms Mieog says listing her space on Open Homes was a simple way to help out during a disaster.

If all spare rooms were made available in a crisis there wouldn’t be as much of a strain placed on emergency services, and I would hope that a little more money would then be available for recovery efforts.

Open Homes began following the 2012 Hurricane Sandy in the US, but made its way to Australia in response to the 2018 Queensland bushfires.

Ms Wheeldon said the organic interest generated in the service has been astounding.

“Just today, the sheer number of listings that are being added, minute by minute - it’s really heartwarming,” she said.

It’s a testament to the amazing Australian community, It’s allowing a number of residents that have been devastated by bushfire to have somewhere that they can all home, if only temporarily.

Open Houses is also offering free accommodation to first responders like the New South Wales Rural Fire Service and the Queensland Fire and Emergency Service.

“When you think about exhausted fire-fighters that also potentially could be far away from home and in areas with limited supplies, it allows them to continue to do their job as well,” Ms Wheeldon said.

Ms Wheeldon also stressed that potential hosts do not have to have an active AirBnB listing to offer their spare room on Open Homes.

“It can be a private room, it can be a whole house all people have to do is go to the website and register, it’s a really easy process.”

Ms Wheeldon said there are plenty of accommodation options available for those seeking assistance.

To offer your home on AirBnB Open Homes or to book free emergency accommodation, head here

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