Airbnb is a fun alternative for travelers who want something different from the standard hotel experience, but the company also offers a service that could potentially be life-saving.
Yesterday, Airbnb launched Open Homes in Milan, Italy. The project gives volunteer hosts the option to open their homes to refugees and displaced people for no charge. And in less than 24 hours, over 100 Italians have already volunteered to provide shelter.
“Earlier this year, we set a goal to support our hosts in opening their doors to 100,000 displaced people over the next five years," Airbnb co-founder Joe Gebbia wrote. "Why not give the same solution we provide to travelers to those who are displaced?”
The Airbnb effort in Milan is targeted to help migrants because it's a major issue in the city and the country of Italy as a whole. Last summer, a record high of 3,300 migrants reached Milan (and 181,436 refugees arrived in Italy in 2016 alone).
Airbnb has plans to expand the Open Homes program. Partnerships have already been formed in the U.S., Canada, France, Italy, and Greece, and more than 6,000 people have signed up to serve as hosts. “We've been adding more every week and month, so we hope to be expanding more soon,” an Airbnb spokesperson told Condé Nast Traveler.
This isn't the first time Airbnb hosts have been given the option to provide free lodging. The company's Disaster Response Program was launched in 2012 when Hurricane Sandy ravaged New York City and it has responded to 65 global crises since. Currently, the program is serving displaced individuals and relief workers affected by the Grenfell Tower Fire in London and the wildfires in Pedrogao Grande, Portugal.