Airbnb Hosts Provide Free Shelter To Those Displaced By Sandy
Displaced New Yorkers have been struggling to find comfortable and affordable places to live until they can recover from Sandy. NY1's Valarie D'Elia has the scoop on a website that lists homeowners who are willing to rent out there extra space for free.
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Lioni Greaves of Brooklyn normally rents out the basement two bedroom apartment of her beautiful Bed-Stuy brownstone for $175 a night through the online accommodations platform known as Airbnb.
But this week, her guests are staying for free.
Kyra Groves and her boyfriend Omar have been displaced since Sandy flooded out their home in the Rockaways.
"It's excellent and it's nice to know there are definitely people out there who are sensitive and care enough to assist," Groves said.
The idea to use Airbnb as a conduit to shelter New Yorkers in need happened organically with hosts like Greaves opening their doors free of charge.
"We realized this is an amazing thing that we can do," said Shelia Karaszewki, Airbnb's community manager. "So lets make this easier for hosts and it kind of spun from there and it's turned into a partnership with Mayor Bloomberg’s office."
For the most part, the city frowns upon subletting apartments for short stays. But the mayor's office said it's the free aspect of this program that makes it legal.
One Brooklyn resident, Michelle Martinez, who is hosting FEMA workers in her oversize loft, thinks this grassroots effort will give Airbnb's reputation a boost.
"I think this is what [people] needed to see, that it's not this terrible thing," Martinez said. "People love to share their homes, they want to connect with people."
Beyond offering free housing, Airbnb is also mobilizing its ranks for a food drive to provide freshly prepared meals to shelters.
The listings for free rooms on Airbnb will last at least through the end of November.
"We are really relying on people to stay true to the human spirit right now," Karaszewki said. "Just trust each other and help each other out and so far it's been going well."
For information on free listings, visit Airbnb.com/sandy.