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AirBnb encouraging homeowners to open rooms and homes for fire evacuees

Posted at 10:40 PM, Nov 20, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-21 01:50:49-05

The Woolsey and Camp Fires have ravaged California, impacting thousands of people.

Now, fire victims are welcome to book homes on Airbnb, like the Jackson family’s Shell Beach house, for free.

“I’m willing to do whatever for anybody because I’m hoping anybody would do that for me,” Colleen Jackson said.

The Jacksons are allowing fire victims to stay for free, three days a month, through Airbnb’s Open Homes Disaster Relief Program.

Through the program, homeowners can list their open rooms or homes on the site just like they would for people on vacation, but this time, the people visiting aren’t charged any money.

The goal is to help some of the 52,000 people that were evacuated from the fires across the state.

While the Jacksons appreciate the accolades, they want more people to be generous.

“You know, I don’t need a reward of any sort, I just need other people to offer up their homes also,” Colleen said.

Airbnb is working to make this process as easy as possible, streamlining their site and even starting a hotline number.

“Knowing that it’s very difficult for evacuees to just deal with what they’re dealing with, let alone having to figure out how to build a new account and finding a place to stay,” explained Kellie Bentz, Head of Global Disaster Relief for Airbnb.

Airbnb hopes the comfort of being in a home as opposed to a shelter helps bring fire victims a moment of peace.

“I think some people are just trying to find a couple of nights in a home where they can cook a meal or do laundry and many people are able to open their homes and are available to do that so we want to get the word out as much as possible,” Bentz said.

“In this time of Thanksgiving, you have got an opportunity to meet some wonderful people,” Jackson said.

Airbnb said in a release Tuesday that since they activated this program on November 8, they’ve had more than  2,500 people offer their homes, which has helped house close to 1,800 people in California.

The Open Homes Program runs through December 14. The hotline number is (415) 510-4001.