Authorities in the Australian state of Victoria recently partnered with online accommodation website Airbnb to deliver a project that will offer emergency shelter to people displaced by natural disasters.
The move comes after a similar initative was set up through Airbnb in New York following Hurricane Sandy in 2012 which saw 1400 of the accommodation site's users open their homes to those displaced by the superstorm. Airbnb has since introduced the programme in Colorado, Bosnia, London and Sardinia among others.
Victorian residents already registered with Airbnb can opt to take part in the event of a disaster and Airbnb will also set up a dedicated website that allows the general public to sign up and offer accommodation (for free or at a low cost) in these instances. Hosts will also be provided with disaster information materials to assist in their preparation.
The initative formalises a longstanding set up whereby Victorians are encouraged to offer short-term housing to those in need of a place to stay following a disaster and will be brought in as a support system to existing crisis support services. One of the biggest disasters in Victoria in recent memory occurred in February 2009 when bushfires swept through parts of the state. Dubbed the Black Saturday bushfires (with as many as 400 individual fires recorded on Saturday, 7 February 2009), the disaster displaced more than 7,500 people in the immediate and long-term aftermath with the Victorian government organising temporary accommodation and citizens opening their homes to those affected. Intiatives such as this with Airbnb look to facilitate the process of organising crisis accommodation for those in need.