Airbnb Is Giving Homeless Students Somewhere To Stay This Holiday Season


College is hard enough without having to worry about having somewhere to sleep.

Between studying for exams, filing for student loans, and mapping out a future, going to college can be extremely stressful. So it’s easy to imagine the added stress for students who do this all without a home. In the Bay Area, a part of California where affordable housing has become increasingly unattainable, students are particularly vulnerable: One California State University report found that more than 4,000 San Jose State University students experienced a form of homelessness in 2018.

To address this devastating problem, Airbnb is partnering with the City of San Jose, the Bill Wilson Center , and San Jose State University to give homeless and housing-insecure students free temporary housing. This public, private, and non-profit partnership is the first in the country to offer this kind of program to homeless students.

“We know we’ve got hundreds of homeless students who should be thinking about their exams, and their classes, rather than where they’re going to sleep each night,” said San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo.

“These students are talented, they’re bright, they’re energetic. We want them to say ‘hey, I need some help’ (and) we want to get them some help,” said Patrick Day, SJSU Vice President of Student Affairs.

The Bill Wilson Center, a nonprofit that works directly with homeless youth and young people across the region, will have access to the “Airbnb for Work” booking platform, which is typically used by businesses to reserve rooms for employees. The rooms will be covered using a $250,000 state grant that was previously awarded to the center.

“If you’re already struggling with your cost of how you afford housing, how do you do that during the period when college dorms are closed? So, this really solves the problem and a very specific issue,” said Ron Ricci, president of the center’s board of directors.

Airbnb will waive host and guest booking fees, as the Bill Wilson Center works with students to help them secure long-term housing.

“We have hosts who are incredibly interested in playing this role, in opening up their homes, and engaging with students who may need housing,” said Chris Lehane, Airbnb’s head of global policy and communications.

Lehane says the company’s algorithm will help determine willing hosts and find locations that are convenient for students. Lehane believes the program will draw in homeowners who have never thought about hosting until now.

“Given the data that we have seen, survey information that we have seen, when there’s an incredible amount of empathy, and interest in the student homelessness issue, specifically, in addition to our regular hosts engaging in this, you’ll get another cohort of folks who want to participate because they want to find a way to help those students,” said Lehane.