Local Airbnb hosts support company’s initiative to house refugees

Posted on Jan 30 2017 - 8:42pm by Anna Gibbs

In the wake of President Donald Trump’s executive order banning immigrants from seven countries, one corporation is constructively fighting back, with the effects potentially reaching as far as the Oxford community.

In a tweet from his personal account, Airbnb founder Brian Chesky announced the company would be offering free housing to “refugees and anyone not allowed in the U.S.”

As a college town with a lively football scene as well as a strong arts presence, Oxford offers more than 300 Airbnb locations.

Airbnb host Vivian Neill, of Oxford Treehouse Gallery, said she “absolutely supports” Airbnb’s initiative and would be happy to help anyone in need.

Oxford host Brandon Griffith said he would also be “more than happy” to house an affected immigrant through the company. He and his wife Dawn have already hosted guests from Europe, Asia and Australia, and they view it as a chance to meet interesting people.

“If Airbnb asked me to host a refugee in need for no cost, I would be completely fine with that,” Griffith said. “[My wife and I] just rent out a room in our house, and to us, Airbnb is about being open and accepting and making everyone feel at home.”

Alex Able, a San Francisco native, Ole Miss senior and frequent Airbnb guest, said she considers the company’s announcement a timely public relations move.

“The company has gone through some ups and downs with hosts discriminating against guests and them not catching it,” Able said. “I just love that they were so on the ball. It makes me think the decision was made based on how they could do the most good.”

Airbnb did face backlash– and a potential class-action lawsuit– last year after guests claimed potential hosts were discriminating against them. However, the case was dropped thanks to a clause in their terms of service. Since then, the company has made great strides to eliminate such accusations, modifying its usage terms and improving its host screening process to ensure no guest feels unwelcome.

Airbnb’s announcement is not only receiving praise from outside sources but from inside sources as well. Joe Zadeh, vice president of production for the company, also praised the decision.

“As the son of Iranian immigrants, I could not be more proud to work at Airbnb,” Zadeh said in a tweet on Sunday.

The company has since tweeted links to several donation sites for immigrant aid, as well as provided information on how people can volunteer to open their homes for those in need.

This article was a special to The Daily Mississippian from an advanced reporting class.