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Airbnb Donates $5 Million to San Francisco Homeless Crisis

San Francisco-based company Airbnb was founded by Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia. At the time, the two were living together as roommates. In an effort to make ends meet, they decided to let travelers rent an air mattress in their living room. In 2008, another roommate joined in and made a website. That’s when the new business began to take hold.

Ten years later, and over four million homes, apartments, boats, mansions, and villas are listed on Airbnb’s website. It has become an international sensation, with listings available in 191 countries. Current estimations put the company’s value at approximately $32 billion. And to think… all that started with a single apartment in San Francisco.

Arguably, the hospitality broker (for Airbnb owns none of the properties it advertises) has done a lot to hurt housing rates in major expensive cities like San Francisco. Landlords who can make more rent from weekend tourists than from their years-old tenants have converted properties into makeshift hotels, and legislation has had to rise up to help protect tenants. Today, San Francisco has more than 7,000 people without stable housing, including as many as 1,000 families. But it was founded by two people desperately trying to make rent, and now they want to help.

CEO Brian Chesky announced on Tuesday, November 13, that Airbnb will be donating $5 million to help alleviate the homelessness crisis in San Francisco. The company hasn’t yet announced where that money will be invested, but they’ve worked in the past with Hamilton Families, San Francisco-Marin Food Bank, and Larkin Street Youth Services, all of which are heavily involved in homelessness aid.

“Airbnb is lucky to call San Francisco our hometown and we share in the responsibility to ensure San Francisco continues to be a city open to everyone, and a city that works together to tackle our most difficult issues,” the company stated in a blog post.

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Helping Homeless Families

The common image of homelessness is a man in layers of ragged clothing, begging for change in a big city. This is, however, far from the full picture. Most people don’t think that much about the issue, and so many aspects of homelessness get ignored.

One of those aspects, often overlooked by even the most generous of people, is family homelessness. As the name implies, family homelessness affects whole families, which can find themselves without a home for any number of reasons. Eviction, job loss, fires, medical bills and so on, anything that might drive a single person into the street can put entire families there as well.

Homeless

Safe Haven Family Shelter works to alleviate these problems in the Middle Tennessee region. Centered around a shelter-to-housing program, Safe Haven begins looking for housing for families as soon as they bring them in, with space for up to 10 families in their shelter. Thanks to a variety of community grants, they are able to help 30 families at a time with housing.

In addition to helping families find and attain housing, Safe Haven provides a variety of educational assistance. They offer assistance with financial literacy, job training and job placement, and offer intensive case management. They use evidence-based methods, influenced by such theories as trauma-informed care or Parent Child Interaction Therapy, to ensure that families receive the best, specific help possible.

Safe Haven accepts a variety of aid from donors and supporters. They accept both money and donations of goods which families can use, such as linens, baby goods, and household items. They also offer volunteer opportunities for people who wish to help out more directly.

If you want to help address the problem of family homelessness, but you can’t make it to Tennessee to volunteer or want to help families closer to you, there are a number of other shelters and programs you can support. A simple Internet search for family homelessness and your zip code or city should get you started.

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Student Raises Thousands for Homeless Man Who Paid It Forward

Dominique Harrison-Bentzen
Dominique Harrison-Bentzen and other volunteers raise awareness about homelessness and raise funds for their local homeless community. / Image: via Facebook.

The holiday season is a time of giving, and perhaps no two people demonstrated what true selflessness means than Dominique Harrison-Bentzen and the homeless man that tried to give her his last £3 so she could get home safely in a taxi. Harrison-Bentzen was so touched by this kind gesture that she later set out to raise funds to help the man get back on his feet again.

According to The Guardian,

Dominique Harrison-Bentzen, who studies at the University of Central Lancashire, says she had lost her bank card and needed to get home after a night out when the homeless man, known only as Robbie, offered money to help.

The 22-year-old says she declined the offer, but was so moved by his gesture that she started a campaign to raise enough money to help him get a flat. She set up a donation page and asked people to each donate £3 for her fundraiser, which involved spending the night on the street, along with supporters who had heard about her story through social media.

“I was touched by such a kind gesture from a man who faces ignorance every day, so I set on a mission to find this man,” said Harrison-Bentzen. “The more I spoke about him the more kind gestures I learned about him, such as him returning wallets untouched to pedestrians and offering his scarf to keep people warm,” of how his kindness affected more people in her community than she even realized.

As of Wednesday, Harrison-Bentzen had raised £21,000 (close to $40,000 US dollars) for Robbie and other members of the local homeless community. “With Robbie’s blessing, we want to help as many people as we can,” says Harrison-Bentzen. “Robbie has already suggested some local charities within Preston who have helped not only him but others through hardship.”