Airbnb for refugees is coming to the U.S., but the newest version, EmergencyBnB, would also include survivors of domestic violence and eventually other vulnerable populations.
Amr Arafa, who came to the U.S. from Egypt in 2005, said he was moved by the stories of Europe’s treatment of refugees to set up his own house sharing site.
He first used Airbnb to host his own guests in his Washington, D.C. apartment for free—for both refugees looking for a temporary place to stay and domestic violence survivors looking for urgent shelter—but the site repeatedly shut down his account for rejecting so many requests. He had to turn some away because he could either not leave the apartment during that time or verify their story with official documents.
“It started when I got this green card. I got this incredible dosage of stability. That card allowed me to see my mother for the first time in eight years,” Arafa told the Washington Post. “That one month home in Egypt, I came back with this new positive energy. I just wanted to help people get this sense of stability.”
The site is still in the development stage, and Arafa told ABC News he hopes to eventually work with nonprofits and the government to receive refugees as soon as they enter the U.S.. Housing is currently tough to find even for those specialized in those services, especially in metro areas like D.C.
Similar sites sprung up across Europe—including Refugees Welcome in Germany and Austria and SINGA France—last year linking hosts with newly-arrived refugees. The sites have also organized meetings to help organize rallies and events to show their support for refugee arrivals.