Northern California fires: Here’s how you can help & get help if you need it

Administrator
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Several fires across Northern California are impacting the area. Many residents are evacuating to safer areas and could be displaced for some time.

 

There’s an immediate need for more hosts to provide temporary housing. Airbnb is working to connect hosts interested in sharing their space with those in need. If you want to help, Airbnb wants to help you do it. 

 

Do you have available housing in the area? You can sign up online to share your space for free with those affected. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are only inviting hosts with entire homes or apartments to sign up, and advising contact-free check-ins. Airbnb waives all service fees, and all disaster relief guests and hosts have access to Airbnb's 24/7 customer support. All bookings are on a request-to-book basis.

 

The Northern California fires are the most recent example of Airbnb hosts stepping in to help their community in times of need. Through Airbnb’s Open Homes program, hosts have provided free housing for more than 70,000 people. You can learn more here.

 

Thank you and stay safe. 

 

Updated Aug 26th, 2020

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12 Replies

Re: Northern California fires: Here’s how you can help & get help if you need it

in
Auckland, New Zealand
Level 10

Thoughts are with you all in areas impacted by natural disasters.

 

However a question @Airbnb , why are people who have private rooms not permitted to offer & accommodate people who prefer some companionship in these challenging times?

 

 Your policy here may be viewed as Discriminatory to those who need accommodation.

 

We are understood to all have the same Gvt msgs across the world that Coronavirus doesn't discriminate & everyone is entitled to shelter & companionship... If a person normally living on their own or in shared living needs accommodation why shouldn't they be allowed the same equality?

 

@Catherine-Powell @Lizzie 

@Anna @Quincy @Liv @Katie 

Re: Northern California fires: Here’s how you can help & get help if you need it

in
Auckland, New Zealand
Level 10

"Companionship" is vital for one's overall mental well being in times of disasters, natural or other.

Please consider all layers of our communities different needs.

Re: Northern California fires: Here’s how you can help & get help if you need it

Administrator in
Oakland, CA
Administrator

Hi @Helen427 , 

 

My name is Kat and I'm part of the Open Homes team at Airbnb. Lizzie highlighted your comments to me and I wanted to answer your question, thanks for your thoughtful feedback.
 
I am in agreement with you that companionship can play a key role in recovery from a traumatic event, such as a natural disaster. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we invited hosts with entire homes or apartments in order to encourage contactless check-in and social distancing protocols. This decision was made with the safety and health of our guests and hosts at the top of mind. 
 
Hope this helps! 
Best, 
Kat 

Re: Northern California fires: Here’s how you can help & get help if you need it

in
Berkeley, CA
Level 10

This is just another P.R. stunt with zero vetting of potential refugees. There are several options for opening ones home, spare room , whatever, that are legit. Check in with the affected counties. In Santa Cruz people are staying in the Civic auditorium & at schools. Local hotels are overflowing. Is airbnb offering free spaces in their hotels? That would be meaningful, otherwise this is a disgraceful attempt to manufacture undeserved goodwill on the back of disaster.

Re: Northern California fires: Here’s how you can help & get help if you need it

Administrator in
Oakland, CA
Administrator

Hi @Sally221 , 

 

Thanks for your feedback- I’d like to take the opportunity to address some of the concerns you raise about Open Homes. 

 

Vetting: People affected by the disaster and relief workers have the ability to search for and book an Open Homes listing directly for themselves. Starting in 2020, we have changed the Open Homes booking policies to include address screening in an effort to confirm that the guest is from the impacted area. We know hosting is a big commitment and offer 24/7 support to answer questions from hosts about an Open Home reservation

 

Hotels: We invite all hotels on the platform to sign up, but it’s up to the hotel whether or not they wish to participate. Participation in the program is voluntary and we aren’t able to force hotels, or any hosts, to join Open Homes. 

 

Local governments: When we decide to activate Open Homes for a disaster, we work directly with local governments and trusted nonprofits to ensure our program fits their needs. For the NorCal fires, we worked closely with CalOES and other local partners. 

 

This program was inspired by hosts, starting with hosts in New York who wanted to list their spaces for free during Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Since then, over 70,000 people have found temporary accommodation through Open Homes. Our program is community-driven and host feedback allows our team to better serve our guests and hosts- so thank you for your input.

 

Best, 

Kat 

 

Re: Northern California fires: Here’s how you can help & get help if you need it

Level 10

@Katrina143

 

Where can the Annual Public Reports of the Open Homes Fund and the previous Disaster Relief Fund - detailing the amounts of donations collected and individual amounts disbursed (also, when/to whom) - be found please? 

Penelope

Re: Northern California fires: Here’s how you can help & get help if you need it

Administrator in
Oakland, CA
Administrator

Hi @Super47 , thanks for your question! We plan to share out our first impact report in early 2021.

 

Best, 

Kat 

Re: Northern California fires: Here’s how you can help & get help if you need it

Level 10

Hi @Katrina143

 

Thank you for the response, but it's not a generalised impact report I'm inquiring about - rather, the detailed Annual Report containing a breakdown of each specific amount collected and disbursed.

 

Airbnb has been soliciting charitable donations for various causes for several years now, so legally - and in the interests of transparency - there should be publicly available/viewable annual records of exactly how much was donated to the Funds each year, and exactly how much was distributed, and to whom? Unless Airbnb has an exemption of some type that permits them to keep these figures secret? If so, please clarify which exemption applies. 

Penelope

Re: Northern California fires: Here’s how you can help & get help if you need it

Administrator in
Oakland, CA
Administrator

Hi @Super47 , 

 

Thanks for the follow-up- this is a great question, and I hope I can help clarify a few points. 

 

Airbnb campaigns: Airbnb has run donation campaigns in the past, for example, relief for the Nepal Earthquake in 2015. In these cases, funds were donated directly to the partner NGO, not to Airbnb, and often Airbnb matched. So, the donors can expect to receive information about their donations from the NGO that received funding via the campaign. 

 

Recurring donations to the Open Homes Fund: Since Airbnb is not a 501(c)3 and cannot offer tax deductibility for donations, donations are made to the Open Homes Fund, a donor advised fund managed by  PayPal Giving Fund, a 501(c)3 charity. Once in the Open Homes Fund, donations are distributed to nonprofit partners. You can read the PPGF donor terms of service here, and learn more about donations in our help center. 

 

One-time donations to the Open Homes Fund: There are currently two different ways a user on Airbnb can make a one-time donation to the Open Homes fund. One is by donating at the time of making a reservation, and the other is through our COVID-19 relief page. In both cases, these donations go to the same donor-advised fund at PPGF that is described above. These donations go to nonprofits that help COVID-19 responders find a place to stay.  

 

I hope this is helpful! Take care, 

Kat 

Re: Northern California fires: Here’s how you can help & get help if you need it

in
Berkeley, CA
Level 10

My comments were based on the frustrations and unforced errors that happened during the Napa fires, there were many anecdotes of folks scamming for free accommodations and very poor support from admin for hosts who were taken advantage of. Dealing directly with local agencies is going to be less risky for hosts.

Meanwhile, a room in someone's house is better than a cot at the civic auditorium, we had my daughter in law's parents staying with us for several days  as refuges from one fire and friends from Felton, in the Santa Cruz mountains, are coming as soon as they organize space for their horses. It is not ideal but this is an unprecedented emergency with many tens of thousands evacuated and thousands of houses destroyed. We are lucky enough that our guest suite is fairly self contained but even if it was just a spare room it's better than nothing. More than 1,000 square miles are currently burning with not much containment,  people are staying in tents, cars, where ever there's a space & the air quality is sometimes dangerous. This is 2020.

Re: Northern California fires: Here’s how you can help & get help if you need it

in
Sayulita, Mexico
Level 10

@Katrina143  If "address screening" is anything like your "verifications", that doesn't give hosts much security. As far as I'm aware, guests can claim to be from anywhere they want. I've had guests whose Airbnb account info said they were from somewhere they moved from years before. Their intent wasn't nefarious, they had simply neglected to update their profile info, but the fact remains that Airbnb didn't care to check whether info was current.

 

It's all very nice to ask hosts to offer accommodation to those in need from a natural disaster, but if you want hosts to be eager to help out in this way, but there have been so many reports in the past of guests claiming they were displaced, that turned out to be false, and guests who actually were displaced, but treated the accommodation with total disrespect, that it's a bit much to expect hosts to be clamoring to sign up.

 

The same thing happened with your COVID first responders program. There were lots of posts here on the forum where hosts had accepted people who claimed to be first responders, who showed up with an entire entourage and were basically just taking a vacation. Obviously these people didn't have to provide any solid proof to Airbnb that they needed housing because they were coming to work as a first responder. To add insult to injury, many hosts provided the accommodation free of charge or at a huge discount, wanting to be responsible and caring human beings, only to be completely taken advantage of.

 

Airbnb needs to realize that they can't operate in ways that leave hosts open to be scammed and abused and then just say that "Oh, we now do address screening", and expect that to reassure anyone.

 

And considering that it's now impossible to reach CS and get a prompt response, what happens if hosts who do sign up for this have an issue with the guests? I guess they're just outta luck? Maybe they'll get a response from CS in November?

 

 

 

Re: Northern California fires: Here’s how you can help & get help if you need it

in
Eureka, CA
Level 2

I’m a host in Northern California and even though we are safe on the coast we are surrounded by fires and unhealthy air quality. I have offered full refunds to my guests who are either traveling through other states that are on fire to get here and or within the state. One guest who cancelled reached out and said AirBnB did not refund the booking fee. This is appalling as I do not expect people to visit the Redwoods when there are fires in all directions. Do the ethical thing and refund the fee to these people. This is beyond their control. I’m a small time host willing to waive my cancellation policy to ensure people are safe and healthy. Do the right thing AirBnB! 

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