When Airbnb’s Disaster Response and Relief team contacted Susan Bailey and asked her to house a refugee from Yemen, there was no hesitation in her response—of course she would do it. Since becoming a host in Denver last year, Susan has loved every second of it. She strives to greet every single guest in person and ensures they have everything they need to feel right at home. Having lived in Denver for the past 25 years, Susan takes pride in her city and never hesitates to help guests “live like a local.” When Susan heard about the travel ban and Airbnb’s commitment to helping those affected, she knew she wanted to help.
Zak, a refugee from Yemen, landed in Denver one day after the travel ban was issued. Though he was fortunate to make it into the U.S., his plans suddenly changed when the other refugees he was supposed to room with were barred from entry into the country. The International Rescue Committee and Airbnb reached out to Susan to see if she and her husband, Steve, could house Zak temporarily. Susan and Steve instantly connected with Zak and knew they wanted to do more for him. They enlisted the help of neighbors and friends to help Zak secure a part-time job and find him permanent, long-term housing. “When we agreed to house Zak, we didn’t know how special the meaning of that ‘yes’ would be. Zak is a joyful and beautiful person. He’s interested in every dimension of life, people, and the arts—we consider him a close friend,” says Susan.
Since housing Zak, Susan and Steve have opened their doors to four other refugee families from the Middle East. They have helped these families get settled into the Denver community, going above and beyond to help them feel welcomed. For the Colorado Ballet’s Masterworks, Susan and a group of friends organized a visit for the refugee children and later, a reception for their parents. When asked about why she does all this, Susan brushes it off and says it’s the Denver community that should be given credit, “there are many friends and neighbors who have given these families rides to appointments, gotten them job interviews, or taken them into their own homes. I’m one small piece of the puzzle.”
Airbnb is proud of its work to help create a sense of belonging by working with various organizations around the world to support refugees. Last month, Airbnb announced its commitment to provide short-term housing over the next five years for 100,000 people in need starting with refugees, disaster survivors, and relief workers with a goal of expanding aid to more types of displaced people and other causes in the future. Airbnb has also pledged to contribute $4 million to the International Rescue Committee over the course of four years to help support those in need to include providing temporary accommodations.