EmergencyBnB: An Altruistic Spin on Airbnb

published Jun 10, 2017
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
(Image credit: Arden Wray)

EmergencyBnB operates a lot like Airbnb: you enter a zip code, review descriptions and host profiles, and choose a short-term stay option. The difference? No money is exchanged. The hosts on EmergencyBnB offer up their spaces free of charge to refugees and victims of domestic violence. The site is currently operating throughout the U.S., Europe, and beyond. Take a look at this citizenship in action.

The Story Behind EmergencyBnB

After watching a video of Syrian refugees being turned away from the Hungarian border by a human barricade of local police, Amr Arafa felt compelled to do something—to help those in need and to create a platform that could serve as a unified means of community support. He launched EmergencyBnB because it felt like something tangible he, and others in his community, could do to help. Arafa’s first hosting experience was housing a Syrian family from Texas for a week in his D.C. studio while they attended their asylum hearing. While he notes he was nervous about housing complete strangers, the experience was a positive one and confirmed his belief that a site to help refugees and those escaping abusive homes was needed.

Using the Airbnb model as his inspiration, Arafa employed his tech skills to launch the site in 2016 and currently has hundreds of volunteer hosts listed around the world, from California to Sydney to Tokyo. To protect host families from being taken advantage of, Arafa established a vetting system whereby guests must provide official documentation to hosts, proving they are of refugee status or leaving an abusive situation: refugee passport, court order or police report. And all guests must agree to EmergencyBnB’s terms of service before completing their booking.

(Image credit: Washington Post)

How it Works

(Image credit: EmergencyBnB)


Using a computer or phone, guests click on “I Need a Place” on the EmergencyBnB home page and then enter their zip code. They can review all open spaces in their area, along with descriptions of each available space and host information. Guests then use the site’s messaging system to query hosts or arrange for a short-term stay.


Those who are willing to open their homes up on EmergencyBnB simply click on the “I Have a Place” button, which takes them to a Welcome page where they can fill out a form with their parameters for hosting.

Why it Works

• Civically-minded altruism made accessible to a far-reaching network of other caring citizens through the vision and thoughtful planning of one ingenious person. Talk about being the change you wish to see in the world.

• Easy-to-navigate from a hosting and guest standpoint.

• Protections are in place for both hosts and guests.

• For more information, visit EmergencyBnB.