Area hotels, AirBnB hosts offer discounted and free shelter to Hurricane Harvey evacuees

Area hotels and AirBnB hosts are offering discounted rates and flexible amenities to those who have been displaced by Hurricane Harvey.

AirBnB, a nationwide overnight stay marketplace, activated its Disaster Response and Relief Program to help Hurricane Harvey evacuees. Locals hosts can sign up to offer their homes for free or at a discounted price to people displaced because of the storm.

According to the AirBnB website, all service fees are waived for those affected by the disaster and checking in between Aug. 23-Sept. 1.

“[On Aug. 24], AirBnB activated our Disaster Response and Relief Program to assist residents in Texas evacuating coastal areas ahead of Hurricane Harvey,” Kellie Bentz, Head of Global Disaster Response and Relief said in a statement. “Through our program, those in need of temporary accommodations as a result, including emergency relief workers and volunteers, are able to connect with AirBnB hosts in the San Antonio, Austin, and Dallas areas…”

According to the website, the Disaster Response and Relief Program began in 2012 in the wake of Hurricane Sandy and has since grown into a global disaster response initiative that makes it easy for AirBnB hosts to provide space for people in need when disasters strike.

"We encourage hosts in safe, inland areas to aid in this effort by listing their available rooms or homes on the platform to help the growing number of evacuees,” Bentz stated. “Our thoughts continue to be with everyone in the path of the storm, and we thank the dedicated government and emergency response personnel who are keeping our communities safe."

Over 100 hosts in the Austin area have listed their homes or rooms for free to Hurricane evacuees, some of which are listed in Southwest Austin. Those looking for shelter or looking to provide shelter can visit the Disaster Response and Relief program website.

On Aug. 25, Governor Greg Abbott suspended statewide, both local and state, hotel and motel occupancy taxes for relief-effort workers and evacuees. The suspension is expected to last 14 days.

“There is no doubt that Hurricane Harvey is creating a temporary housing emergency in the state of Texas,” Abbott stated in an Aug. 25 press release. “The state of Texas has a duty to ensure we are offering as much relief as possible to the victims, first responders, and relief-effort personnel, of this terrible storm. Reducing the cost of hotel accommodations is one part of that process. Those who have taken safety precautions by evacuating need not to be struggling with the cost of shelter during this already difficult time.”

White Lodging, a hotel management company for a few area hotels in Austin, is prepared for Hurricane Harvey evacuees if necessary. White Lodging properties in Austin has been preparing for evacuees from Houston, Corpus Christi, Victoria and other southern Texas communities since last week.

David Rowland, general manager of White Lodging’s property Austin Marriott South, 4415 I-35, Austin, said the property has begun to see additional evacuees from Houston and has begun receiving calls from individuals who have received temporary housing vouchers from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA. The hotel has softened its cancellation policy and animal policy in an effort to be flexible and work with the evacuees and other guests as much as possible.

“Several guests, who were part of the first wave of evacuees, have left the property to see what the impact of hurricane and storm has been on their homes,” Rowland said.

White Lodging will continue to work with local organizations to help provide shelter as needed, according to staff.

“We are working closely with organizations such as the American Red Cross and FEMA to give evacuees a place to stay,” said Kathleen Sebastian, director of communications for White Lodging.


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