Airbnb Offers Free Housing to Some Cancer Patients

Roxanne Nelson, RN, BSN

April 05, 2019

For some cancer patients who must travel long distances to receive treatment, the journey has become a little easier.

Assistance is available from Airbnb's Open Homes for Medical Stays program, which was launched during the Biden Cancer Initiative Summit last year in New York City. The program allows hosts to open their homes free of charge to individuals who are traveling for critical medical treatment or respite.

Now, Airbnb has collaborated with two new partners — the Bone Marrow & Cancer Foundation and the Cancer Support Community, organizations which provide support to critically ill patients in times of need. Both groups will now have access to free housing provided through the Open Homes program.

In situations when there may not be a home immediately available, Airbnb is donating over $1.2 million in grants to the two organizations to help patients and their families pay for housing when traveling for treatment. To date, about 2000 patients have been provided housing through the initiative.

"The Cancer Support Community fields thousands of calls from individuals who are struggling to cover the cost of traveling for treatments, scans, clinical trials, and other medically necessary care," said Cancer Support Community CEO Kim Thiboldeaux in a press release. "This grant from Airbnb is a game-changer for these patients and caregivers — and you can hear the relief and gratitude in their voices as they learn about the free housing from the Airbnb community."

In order to be eligible for free housing, patients must meet certain geographic and economic criteria.

Patients must travel at least 100 miles or more for treatments, scans, clinical trials, and other medically necessary care, and must meet specific annual income guidelines, which vary according to household size. For example, for a household of two persons, the maximum gross family income cannot exceed $49,380. The need for treatment must also be verified and the application signed by an oncologist, nurse, or medical social worker.

The medical stays program is part of the larger Open Homes initiative, which helps find temporary housing for vulnerable communities around the world. The idea originated in 2012 following Hurricane Sandy in New York City, when hosts offered free housing to individuals who were evacuated. Airbnb began stepping in during other emergencies and disaster situations to pair volunteer hosts with people in need. They eventually responded to over 250 disasters, with hosts opening their homes to evacuees and relief workers all over the world. The program expanded in 2017 to help resettle refugees around the world, and then last September, further expanded to include critically ill patients and caregivers who need to travel for medical treatment or respite.

"We know that the cost of temporary accommodations can be a major barrier to receiving treatment for critical illnesses," said Joe Gebbia, cofounder and chief product officer of Airbnb. "Since launching our medical stays program 6 months ago, our team has helped connect thousands of patients with our generous host community to give them homes where they can rest and recuperate."

Airbnb has an overall goal of temporarily housing 100,000 people in need by 2022.

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