Amr Arafa has started a project of worldwide importance- an Airbnb for those who need it the most: EmergencyBNB.
According to CNN, Arafa has been working on this project for months, with one goal in mind: to change how we treat the world’s most vulnerable people. His project, EmergencyBNB, launched on Friday. The website is designed to help refugees and domestic violence victims find temporary shelter. Look at it as an Airbnb with a dignified purpose.
How does it work?
EmergencyBNB works the same was a regular Airbnb. When users open the website, they are given two options: “I have a place” or “I need a place”. Users can use their phones or computers, enter a zip code, and find someone who’s willing to host them in their apartment or home. The difference: “no money changes hands”.
The project is meant for those who are, for example, in the middle of an asylum hearing or want to escape from an abusive relationship. Afra told CNN, “Helping others is a human instinct and when you see something that really affects you, you want to do something about it.”
Who is Amr Afra?
Afra is a 34-year old Egyptian immigrant who runs a consulting company and lives in Washington DC. A video of Syrian refugees running for the Hungarian border only to find police had formed a human barricade to stop them, bothered Afra, and inspired him to create the project. He calls it, “A site that changes how others see us, and how we see others.”
He started off the project by offering up his apartment on Airbnb. He housed a Syrian couple from Texas who needed to be in DC for a week for an asylum hearing. He also houses a woman facing an abusive home situation. This prompted his idea to create a site for such situations. In August, the site had a somewhat soft launch, but even as he tweaked it, he was overwhelmed with the response: already, 700 people in the US and abroad have listed their homes. Refugees and domestic violence victims have to show some sort of documentation to the host (a refugee passport, a police report or a recent restraining order). This is put in place to make sure that the hosts are not taken advantage of. This proved necessary in the early stages, when more than a dozen users were denied because it appeared that they were lying.
One host, Natalie Perdue, a host in Springfield, Virginia, admits that she concerned at the thought of letting a stranger sleep in her home while her family slept on the floor above them. But, her fourteen year old daughter helped change her mind after coming across articles about the refugee crisis and wanted her family to help. Perdue encourages people to list their homes on the site because she believes the experience can benefit the host just as much as the person they are hosting.
Another host, Maria Luque, lives in an apartment in Washington DC with her husband. They are both Columbian immigrants who came to America for a better life. “We have been blessed to find peace and stability in this country. We would be grateful to help others achieve the same,” she said.
In the end, the main goal of EmergencyBNB: An army of people who keep their homes and hearts open in case another person needs to walk through.