HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS

Austin hosts open homes to Afghan refugees with help from Airbnb

Austin hosts open homes to Afghan refugees with help from Airbnb

Afghan family
Austin Airbnb hosts are opening their homes to Afghan refugees. Courtesy of Airbnb.org

As turmoil and a pained mass exodus continue in Afghanistan amid the U.S. withdrawal, one company is offering up housing for thousands of refugees, including in Austin.

Airbnb announced Tuesday, August 24 that through Airbnb.org, it will provide free temporary housing to some 20,000 Afghan refugees worldwide. Since that announcement, Airbnb says it has received “enormous interest” from those in Austin’s Airbnb community about how they can help refugees, including offering their Airbnb spaces free of charge.

In response to the outpouring of generosity it’s witnessed, on Thursday, August 26, Airbnb.org — an independent nonprofit that facilitates temporary stays for people in crisis — launched a new website, aribnb.org/refugees, that provides info for how Airbnb hosts, including those in Austin, can best help meet the need for emergency housing for Afghan refugees.

Russell Smith, CEO of Refugee Services of Texas, recently told KVUE that within the coming weeks, more than 300 Afghan refugees are expected to settle in Texas, about 100 of them in the Austin area. Some have already arrived.

Here’s how Austinites can help:

  • Host a refugee: Existing Airbnb hosts (and anyone with available space to offer) can sign up to provide free or discounted stays to Afghan refugees. Airbnb will waive all its fees on all refugee stays.
  • Donate: Those who cannot open their homes but are interested in supporting housing for Afghan refugees can donate to Airbnb.org.

Airbnb.org will cover the cost of at least 20,000 refugee stays, but hopes to provide housing for even more.

Additionally, Airbnb and Airbnb.org say they are reaching out to the federal government, states, and cities that have shown interest in receiving refugees to provide housing stays as needed.

“As the situation on the ground in Afghanistan continues to evolve, Airbnb.org will continue to work closely with resettlement agencies and partners to go where the need goes, and evolve this initiative and support as necessary,” an Airbnb news release says.

In the past four years, Airbnb.org says it has helped provide temporary stays through its community to approximately 25,000 refugees. Earlier this year, the nonprofit announced the creation of a $25 million refugee fund.

“As tens of thousands of Afghan refugees resettle around the world, where they stay will be the first chapter in their new lives,” says Airbnb CEO and co-founder Brian Chesky. “For these 20,000 refugees, my hope is that the Airbnb community will provide them with not only a safe place to rest and start over, but also a warm, welcome home.”