The EmergencyBnB Website Is One Man's Incredible Way Of Helping Refugees & People In Need

TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY JOHN HADOULIS Two women prepare the lunch for their families in the kitchen of their apartment in a summer resort in Myrsini sheltering nearly 350 Syrian refugees under the care of a Syria-born mayor, the first naturalised ex-migrant elected to office in Greece, on April 20, 2016. The LM Village resort, partly owned by the local municipality of Kyllini, some 280 kilometres (170 miles) west of Athens, had previously been abandoned for years and extensively looted, a side-effect of the economic crisis gripping Greece since 2010. Each of its small apartments now houses two families with children, the youngest of which was born in a nearby hospital a few days ago. / AFP / ARIS MESSINIS (Photo credit should read ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images)
Source: ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images

"Free for refugees and Bernie Sanders." That's how Amr Arafa categorized his Washington, D.C. apartment when he listed it on Airbnb in November of last year. At a time when anti-refugee rhetoric was on the rise, Arafa sought to provide a sense of stability to those most in need. Knowing that offering up his own apartment was merely a drop in the bucket when it came to providing refugees with much-needed assistance, Arafa got to work on finding a more global solution. He has developed a website that aims to connect refugees and victims of domestic violence with a safe place to stay free of charge while they figure out their next step. 

After using AirBnb to rent his apartment out free of charge (he reportedly refunds the $10 minimum price AirBnb requires hosts charge) to refugees and domestic violence victims, Arafa realized the need for a more long-term solution. To help refugees and other vulnerable communities around the world, Arafa created EmergencyBnB, a website modeled after AirBnb that aims to connect refugees and domestic violence victims with those willing to provide them with a free place to stay temporarily. The website allows hosts to offer entire apartments, private rooms, and even shared rooms as accommodation. 

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Driven by reports of the objectionable welcome some refugees received after fleeing violence in the Middle East, Arafa began coding EmergencyBnB at the tail end of 2015, according to ABC News. "Clicking and sharing to spread the word is a bare minimum, donating money is a step up," he told the news outlet. "But dedicating your core competency, whatever it is, towards a cause really does make a difference." 

Although fully accessible online, the site is still in its early stages. Currently, Arafa is working to build up a network of reliable hosts in cities around the world, the Washington Post reports. He's also reportedly working on a redesign aimed at improving the site's user-friendliness. It's unclear if anyone (refugee or otherwise) has secured a place to crash through EmergencyBnB yet. Arafa told ABC News that while he had hosted "a handful of people" who found his D.C. home through the site, he was unable to monitor all connections made through EmergencyBnB because the site connects hosts and those in need directly.

In helping refugees and domestic violence victims find safe and free accommodation, EmergencyBnB undoubtedly provides a vital service to some of the most vulnerable segments of the community. But EmergencyBnB — and Arafa — are helping to give refugees something even more amazing: global hospitality and a sense of support. "I'm not attempting to resolve the refu­gee crisis," Arafa told the Washington Post. "But I know there are refugees here today, and you have to make them feel welcome."

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