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Airbnb expands free rental program for Irma evacuees, relief workers

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Airbnb, the giant vacation rental home marketing company, announced it is activating a disaster response program to provide free housing to Hurricane Irma evacuees and relief workers.

The company is asking its vacation rental hosts to participate, including those in Florida panhandle counties, plus three Georgia counties. They would then post their listings as available for no charge to evacuees and relief workers for the next three weeks, until Sept. 28.

“We are hopeful that our host community will be able to help make the evacuation process easier for residents and their families,” said Kim Rubey, Airbnb’s global director of social good. “Our thoughts are with everyone who might be impacted by the storm, and we thank the dedicated government and emergency response personnel who are keeping our communities safe.”

Airbnb’s Irma disaster activation strategy was developed in coordination with local and state emergency management and disaster relief officials, the company noted in a news release. As these teams assess where else the Airbnb community can assist with their efforts, Airbnb will continue to expand the territory where the tool is activated, the company stated.

Airbnb has contacted all of its hosts within the northern Florida and southern Georgia activation zone to inform them of the Disaster Response activation and encourage them to take part in the program if they are in a position to help.

The Florida hosts include those in Bay, Escambia, Leon, Walton, Holmes, Washington, Calhoun, Franklin, Jackson, Liberty, Gadsden, Gulf, Wakulla, Madison, Jefferson, and Taylor counties.

Airbnb has also contacted all Airbnb users within the evacuating territories to make them aware of this tool if they are in need of shelter.

Airbnb’s disaster relief program began in 2012 in the wake of Hurricane Sandy and has since grown into a global disaster response initiative that makes it easy for Airbnb hosts to provide space for people in need when disasters strike, the company stated. To date, the program has been activated 75 times all over the world and was activated to assist Florida residents during Hurricane Matthew. The program is currently activated in Texas and Louisiana to support survivors of Hurricane Harvey.

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Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

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