Ukraine crisis: Canadians open homes to welcome refugees

Tens of thousands of Airbnb hosts from Canada and around the world are offering up their homes for free to refugees fleeing violence in Ukraine.

More than 3 million people have escaped the war-torn country as Russia aggressively advances further into Ukraine. Many are headed for nearby places like Poland and Sweden, with some hoping to continue on to countries like Canada.

With millions of refugees now looking for a place to stay, more than 23,000 internationally located Airbnb hosts – including 700 in Canada – are offering their vacation rentals to those in need.

“What’s unfolding there is just so heart-breaking,” Christine Dovey, an Airbnb host with a scenic rental in Prince Edward Island, told CTV National News’ Bill Fortier. “And I think people just want to do whatever they can.”

Dovey said with Ukrainian refugees are expected to arrive in Canada in the coming weeks, she’s already receiving offers of help from others.

“People reached out to me and said, if you do end up getting people, please let me know and I would love to contribute food or supplies or anything they might need while they’re staying with you,” Dovey said.

Even those without a spare home or room to offer up are finding ways to help through Airbnb. Victoria Collins-Hood of Edmonton, Alta., booked a weekend stay at an Airbnb in Kyiv in order to help the Ukrainian owner get a little cash. Both Airbnb and its competitor Vrbo have announced that they are waiving all service fees for bookings in Ukraine, meaning all the money goes directly to the hosts.

“People actually care about these people,” Collins-Hood said. “It’s so nice to see the world come together.”

In a Twitter post last week, Airbnb CEO and co-founder Brian Chesky said guest bookings in Ukraine have generated about US$15 million in donations to hosts there, with 434,000 nights booked in Ukrainian vacation rentals.

The funds raised also include more than US$17 million in donations from Airbnb and its founders, more than $4.5 million raised by more than 50,000 individual donors from 92 countries, and more than $625,000 from Airbnb employees.

“It’s not something you see every day,” said Matt McNama of Airbnb Canada. “I think people really want to find a way to help, and they’re doing it.”

With files from Michael Lee.

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