EmergencyBnB: Providing a safe place for refugees and victims of domestic violence

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) - “No one leaves their home, flees their home by choice,” said Lacey Studnicka with Lutheran Family Services. 

By 2015, more than a million migrants and refugees had crossed into Europe.  A majority were from Syria as well as Afghanistan and Iraq. 

“They are the innocent victims of war, of terrorism, of human trafficking,” said Studnicka.

Crisis ensued as the world struggled to handle the influx.  Images of chaos and pain filled the airwaves. 

A particular 2015 video of a Hungarian camera woman allegedly tripping a Syrian refugee while running with his son caught the attention of Harvard grad and Egyptian immigrant Amr Arafa.  He had to act.

“We ended up finding out about EmergencyBnB in a news article,” said Meredith Harrison of New York City. 

In March of 2016, Arafa who lives in Washington D.C. launched the website EmergencyBnB.  Think AirBnB, but free for refugees and victims of domestic violence.  Hosts across the globe list their couches, bedroom or homes on the site. 

“It just feels really good to unite,” said Harrison.

Nearly 13,000 people around the world have used EmergencyBnB.  Meredith Harrison and Max Martinelli listed a bedroom and a bathroom in their 900 square ft. New York City Apartment this fall. 

“When we met him he was so warm and kind and he really wanted to help us.  He wanted to earn his keep,” said Harrison.

The couple welcomed their first guest at the beginning of November, a man seeking asylum.  Before living with them, he was in and out of homeless shelters and sleeping on the streets.  For his safety and protection the man cannot be identified. 

“It's scary.  I am not going to lie.  It's scary taking a stranger into your home that you've never met,” said Max Martinelli of New York City

The initial shock of letting a stranger live with them quickly wore off.  Their guest stayed for a month.  While he was with them he learned many things including a little English and how to cook. 

“I hope he learned that there are people who want him here,” said Martinelli. 

Closer to home, the Pareckis are still waiting for their first guest. 

“We weren’t really sure who might turn up on our doorstep, but at the same time it felt like such a great opportunity,” said Genevieve Parecki. 

Daniel and Genevieve Parecki are the only Nebraskans listed on EmergencyBnB. 

“I would be pretty excited if we found someone or someone found us,” said Daniel Parecki. 

Near 38th and Davenport the couple is ready to welcome a person or family into their home.  They say hosting with EmergencyBnB is an easy way to make a difference. 

No matter your story, you’re always welcome at their home. 

“I think in a time when a lot of people feel unwelcome in this country or in various communities, it is very important to make a statement and say you are welcome here.  We love you, we care about you and you deserve to be safe,” said Genevieve Parecki. 

For more information, click here. 


 

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