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Soon after Donald Trump issued the first iteration of his disputed ban on travel from six predominantly Muslim countries—a move critics said would adversely affect refugees from war-torn Syria—the founders of Airbnb announced a bold plan to provide short-term housing over the next five years for 100,000 people in need.
After a series of tweets critical of the president, the trio of founders in early February made their pledge under the #WeAccept hashtag, declaring: “To help people around the world facing displacement, we’ll work with our community of hosts to find not just a place to stay, but also a place to feel connected, respected, and a part of a community again.”
Airbnb began offering up homes to refugees in the wake of President Trump’s still-blocked travel ban, which the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled “drips with religious intolerance, animus, and discrimination.” The short-term rental giant was doing much of the work of connecting nonprofit organizations with volunteers through a hacked together system of emails, phone calls, spreadsheets.
Dozens of man hours to settle one family in one place. Highly inefficient and highly unscalable.
Airbnb revealed how it’ll meet the ambitious goal with the launch of its Open Homes platform. Now, Airbnb will automatically be able to connect organizations like the International Rescue Committee, Singa Quebec, Inland Refugee Society of British Columbia, and SolidarityNow with available rooms. In all, seven nonprofits are linked into the new platform.
Open Homes connects organizations seeking short-term stays and volunteers offering up their homes for a specific cause. When volunteers sign on, they’ll be able to specify the cause they’d like to donate their room or home to. Nonprofits looking to set up a family or individual for a few days or weeks while they suss out more permanent housing will be able to view lists of potential volunteers. The new platform automates much of the work that Airbnb has been doing manually up until this point.