Hurricane

Airbnb homes in north Florida and Georgia welcoming Irma evacuees — for free

Members of the Reeves and Parker families gather in the backyard and work on starting a barbecue at a local Airbnb property on Saturday, Aug. 26, 2017, in Brownsville, Texas. The families discovered the availability of the historic Brownsville property as they searched for a place to stay after leaving Four Bluff, Texas ahead of then-Hurricane Harvey's landfall which has caused devastation near the Corpus Christi area of Texas.
Members of the Reeves and Parker families gather in the backyard and work on starting a barbecue at a local Airbnb property on Saturday, Aug. 26, 2017, in Brownsville, Texas. The families discovered the availability of the historic Brownsville property as they searched for a place to stay after leaving Four Bluff, Texas ahead of then-Hurricane Harvey's landfall which has caused devastation near the Corpus Christi area of Texas. AP

Hundreds of thousands of evacuees fleeing Miami-Dade and Broward counties ahead of Hurricane Irma can now stay at Airbnb properties across northern Florida and Georgia — for free.

The popular home-sharing platform activated its Disaster Response Program Thursday as evacuations began in Miami-Dade and Broward. The program offers a tool that helps residents displaced by Irma, or emergency relief workers and volunteers arriving in the state, find a temporary place to stay with local Airbnb hosts.

The listings will be available for the next three weeks, until Sept. 28. In addition to free listings, service fees and state and local taxes are also waived.

Prospective guests can look for accommodations and Airbnb hosts can offer to welcome evacuees here.

As of Friday afternoon, only a handful of homes were available for rent, but more hosts could join the program as the week goes on.

As of Thursday afternoon, all available homes were already booked, but more hosts may join the program as the week goes on.

Evacuees can look for lodging in the following Florida counties: Bay, Escambia, Leon, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, Walton, Holmes, Washington, Calhoun, Franklin, Jackson, Liberty, Gadsden, Gulf, Wakulla, Madison, Jefferson and Taylor. In Georgia, hosts in the greater Atlanta metropolitan area, Decatur, Grady and Thomas counties can participate in the program.

The disaster strategy is developed in coordination with local and state emergency management and disaster-relief officials, Airbnb said. As relief teams assess damage, Airbnb will continue to expand the reach of the program as necessary.

The platform has informed both hosts and users that the program is now active.

The disaster response program began in 2012 in the wake of Hurricane Sandy and has since been activated more than 75 times during natural disasters, including Hurricane Matthew in Florida in 2016 and Hurricane Harvey in Texas last month, where it is currently still active.

Florida counties in Airbnb’s program: Bay, Escambia, Leon, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, Walton, Holmes, Washington, Calhoun, Franklin, Jackson, Liberty, Gadsden, Gulf, Wakulla, Madison, Jefferson and Taylor.

“We are hopeful that our host community will be able to help make the evacuation process easier for residents and their families,” Kim Rubey, Airbnb’s global director of social good, said in a statement.

As of Thursday afternoon, evacuations had begun for residents in zones A, B, and C in Miami-Dade County — the largest evacuation in the county’s history — affecting about 650,000 residents. In Broward County, the evacuation orders affect those who live east of U.S. Route 1 (Federal Highway), as well as all mobile home residents.

Chabeli Herrera: 305-376-3730, @ChabeliH

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