PORTLAND, Ore. -- Airbnb is hoping its network of hosts throughout the U.S. and around the world will step up to help the international refugee crisis.
“We're a global community. This is a global issue. And we realized we have hosts all over the world who want to help,” said Kim Rubey, head of social impact and philanthropy teams at Airbnb.
Oregon has 7,400 hosts, according to the company. About 100 have signed up to take a refugee for free for up to two weeks.
“The response in Portland has been overwhelming,” said Rubey.
The company is partnered with International Rescue Committee.
Nicky Smith, the Executive Director in Seattle, called the idea "wonderful."
“Because there's nothing more intimate than opening your home and saying, you know, refugees are welcome here,” she said.
The committee has not placed any refugees with Airbnb hosts yet in Oregon.
Ben and Emily Wynsma were Airbnb hosts last year, before the company started its program on refugees.
Someone from their church said a Syrian family needed a temporary home.
And they said yes.
“They came about 1 in the morning and the translator introduced us and then kind of took off,” said Emily.
The family included a mother, father and five kids. The dad was a baker who recognized ingredients and cooked in Emily’s kitchen.
They used Google Translate and Charades to communicate.
“They're very hard working, normal people who had awful things happen to them,” Emily said.
The family had spent three years in Jordan in a refugee camp. This was their first feel of an American home.
“We love them and they just feel like really good friends, Emily said. They stayed two weeks while Catholic Charities prepared more permanent housing.
They still visit every couple of weeks.
Ben and Amy found the statistics of the refugee crisis represent real people who are not nearly as different as we might think.
“Then you see this family of seven and they're in your house and it really brings it to home. These are all people with lives and stories and faces and loves and dreams,” said Ben.
They were thrilled to learn Airbnb has started its new program and hope many hosts will volunteer to help.
“We love them and they just feel like really good friends,” Emily said.
Here’s the link to Airbnb’s signup page: https://www.airbnb.com/welcome/refugees
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