BY Mark Babatunde, 4:46pm October 25, 2016,

EmergencyBnB: Air, Bed and Breakfast Service for Those in Need

EmergencyBnB founder Amr Arafa in his bedroom in Washington, D.C., which he has offered to rent out to those in need of temporary accommodation. Photo Credit: Washington Post

Chances are you have never heard of EmergencyBnB, a website designed exclusively to provide temporary accommodation to those most desperately in need of a place to stay. Refugees, asylum seekers, and domestic violence victims are the company’s target market. According to the Washington Post, EmergencyBnB was inspired by Airbnb, the popular homestay platform that allows people to list their apartment or bedroom spaces for travellers to rent on a night by night basis. EmergencyBnB, however, features a unique twist; no money is exchanged between owner and lodger since the people looking for places to stay are often desperate to find somewhere to stay and be safe.

EmergencyBnB is the brainchild of U.S.-based Egyptian immigrant, Amr Arafa. The 34-year-old moved to the United States in 2005, and received a Master’s degree in computer and information science from Clark Atlanta University and another Masters in general management from Harvard University. Arafa told CNN that he was unable to visit his mother in Egypt for 11 years, due to fear that his temporary visa would deny him re-entry back into America.

In 2015, Arafa secured a green card, allowing him to visit his mother soon after. While in Egypt, he watched a viral internet video where a Hungarian woman intentionally tripped up a Syrian refugee holding a child while running from border police. Arafa says he was deeply moved by what he saw and the idea of EmergencyBnB was born.

Arafa immediately kicked things off by listing his own Airbnb apartment and offering it for free as a temporary dwelling to refugees, indigent people, and victims of domestic abuse. A Syrian couple and a domestic abuse victim were some of his earliest users.

Launch of a Dream

EmergencyBnB officially launched on October 21st following beta-testing in August. More than 700 users in the U.S. and abroad have already listed their homes and Arafa told CNN that he has been overwhelmed by the response so far. The safety and security of owners opening up their homes to complete strangers continues to be a recurring concern, but Arafa says the desire to help those in need often trumps most fears.

In order to avoid possible misuse from dishonest users trying to game or exploit the system, the service requires users to show documentation, such as a refugee passport for asylum seekers or a police report or restraining order for domestic violence victims.

Poll Would you rent out a room in your home to a refugee?

Last Edited by:Charles Gichane Updated: October 25, 2016


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