Four ways to prepare your home to host refugees moving to your city

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When moving to a new country, refugees and asylum seekers need to finalize paperwork, search for jobs, and find temporary housing. The experience of moving far from family members and friends, and finding short-term housing can take a toll on a family. With Airbnb’s Open Homes program, you can be part of a pivotal moment in their lives by offering a safe, comfortable place to stay.

Nonprofits work hard to find their clients permanent housing. While that process is underway, there is a need for free, short-term housing — so newcomers can regain a sense of normalcy and stability in the interim.

In this post you’ll find out how to prepare your home to host people that are rebuilding their lives in your community. We talked to Zeyad, who migrated from Iraq to Canada; Sarah, who hosted a family from Afghanistan; and Hisham, who manages partnerships for the International Rescue Committee (IRC).

Communicate details about your home
Prior to booking, caseworkers from our nonprofit partners — such as the IRC and HIAS — may reach out to you to confirm details about your home.  You can share any information that feels relevant (e.g. if you have pets or are bilingual) to help the caseworker gauge whether your home fits the individual or family’s needs.

They can share with you the number of people, when they’re arriving, and any specific sensitivities to keep in mind. Over the course of the stay, you can always reach out to the caseworker or Open Homes customer support with questions that arise.

“I went into practical mode as a mom,” said Sarah, who hosted a family in Vancouver. “Did they need clothes? Should we put food in the fridge? Are they gonna want help with grocery shopping?” She sent these questions to the family’s case manager, who messaged back to say that they might appreciate extra blankets and small toys for the children. Nonprofits usually provide their clients with necessary basics, so while extra items may be appreciated, they are in no way expected.

Be mindful of privacy
“The family could be as self-contained or social as they want,” Sarah continued. “We were friendly if we saw them, in the garden or putting groceries away, but we let them do their own thing.” Depending on the individual or family, they will want differing degrees of privacy, just like any other Airbnb guest.

“It’s important for hosts to give families physical space, but also emotional and social space,” Hisham explained. Identifying areas of your house where they can relax and reconnect with each other — a den, backyard, or other space — can ease the transition and help them feel welcome.

Go above and beyond
“Some hosts take that extra step of baking cookies, writing a letter, or leaving out flowers,” said Hisham. “With people that have been so marginalized throughout their lives, and at a time of uncertainty, to have that feeling of welcome in a home is incredibly special.” While this is not expected of hosts, it’s a special touch than can be meaningful for guests.

Share meals and other cultural traditions
“When you go to an Airbnb, you have the feeling of a home,” Zeyad explained. “And at that home, I had the feeling: I’m living with my family.” His family shared home-made dolmas and meals with their hosts.  After their stay, their hosts invited them to a neighbor’s Halloween party and for a Christmas dinner.

“It’s important to really see them as three-dimensional people, rather than simply refugees,” explained Hisham. “A refugee is more than their immigration status or their persecution story. They have needs,” he reminded us. “They like cooking, music, they worry about their kids education. They’re just like all of us.”

Find out more about how Open Homes works by reading stories about people who’ve offered a place to stay to those that are impacted by disasters or traveling to receive medical care.

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