Airbnb Is Connecting California Fire Evacuees With Free Shelter

Woolsey Fire

Getty The Woolsey Fire burns towards Paramount Ranch in Agoura Hills, California.

The Woolsey Fire escalated from 100 acres to 8,000 from Thursday night to Friday morning, and has continued escalating in scale; the Hill Fire, located just miles from it, is an ongoing threat. As a result, thousands have been forced to quickly evacuate their homes in the Ventura County area. The Woolsey Fire is reportedly now at 14,000 acres, and causing devastation to Malibu, Calabasas, and Thousand Oaks. Less than an hour ago, the CHP – West Valley twitter account confirmed the growing size of the fire, without containment, and extended evacuation to include all of Topanga Canyon. They are urging residents in evacuation zones “Dont wait – evacuate.”

In light of these mass evacuations, Airbnb is encouraging people in designated safe zones to register their homes to be shelters for those who have been displaced. On their webpage, they encourage renters “If you have available housing in the area indicated on the map, please consider making your home available.”

They are making this resource available from November 8 to November 29 (note that these dates include Thanksgiving), and it is meant to offer support to both “displaced neighbors” and “relief workers deployed to help.” As of now, over 250 hosts have opened their homes through this service. Cities in the marked regions where hosts are volunteering their homes include Anaheim, Lancaster, Santa Barbara, Long Beach, and Los Angeles.

According to Airbnb, providing refuge during times of crisis is something hosts have been doing since 2012, helping “thousands of people find safe, welcoming places to stay while they rebuild their lives after natural disasters, wars, conflict, and other events.” Airbnb has created a “response tool” which, when activated, “automatically contacts hosts in the impacted and surrounding areas asking if they have extra space to share with their displaced neighbors. Hosts who respond choose to list their spaces free of charge, and Airbnb waives all booking fees.”

If You Are a Host:

According to Airbnb, if you are within the affected area and interested in helping, you are instructed to “opt into listing [your] homes for $0 by visiting pages dedicated to an event covered by [their] Open Homes program.” Once registered, you retain control of how often you volunteer your home, and for how long. Evacuees will be able to reach you through the app once you have opted in.

They assure that “all the same protections apply for our generous hosts who are offering their homes for free in times of disaster,” and you will be able to communicate and establish a relationship with potential guests before committing to opening your home to them, just like you would within the app normally.

If You Are An Evacuee:

In order to book a space during your time of need, you must first create an Airbnb account. Once you have done that, they instruct that “guests located in the affected area may view $0 listings by clicking “Find shelter” on a disaster-response page.” Following the same expectations of a normal, paid Airbnb listing, it is encouraged that hosts and guests “communicate ahead of time,” to “make sure expectations are clear for everyone involved.”

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