Airbnb Offers Free Housing to Some Cancer Patients

From the WebMD Archives

April 8, 2019 -- For some cancer patients who must travel long distances to get treatment, the journey has become a little easier.

Help 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 people 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 that support critically ill patients. Both groups will now have access to free housing through the Open Homes program.

At times when a home may not be available right away, 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. So far, about 2,000 patients have gotten 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," Cancer Support Community CEO Kim Thiboldeaux said in a news 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."

To be eligible for free housing, patients must meet certain geographic and economic guidelines.

They must travel at least 100 miles for treatments, scans, clinical trials, and other medically necessary care. They also must meet annual income rules, which vary by household size. For example, for a household of two people, the gross family income cannot exceed $49,380. They must also verify the need for treatment and have 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 in New York City after Hurricane Sandy, when hosts offered free housing to people who were evacuated.

"We know that the cost of temporary accommodations can be a major barrier to receiving treatment for critical illnesses," said Joe Gebbia, co-founder 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 a goal of temporarily housing 100,000 people in need by 2022.