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Airbnb gives cancer patients one less thing to worry about: A safe place to sleep

The road just got a little easier for people who have to travel for critical medical treatment — and for those who take care of them.

In an announcement made this week, Airbnb will offer free accommodation for cancer patients and their caregivers, extending the “Open Homes” initiative the company introduced in September 2018.

The move comes on the heels of a $1.2 million donation the accommodation-sharing site made to its newest partners — the Bone Marrow & Cancer Foundation and the Cancer Support Community.

Through those organizations, people who meet certain requirements can avail themselves of thousands of housing options close to hospitals and other care facilities.

It’s one less expense to worry about for people who already have to deal with the skyrocketing costs of medical care in the U.S. — particularly for cancer treatment.

In 2014 alone, according to the Cancer Action Network, patients paid nearly $4 billion out-of-pocket for treatment. Having a clean and free place to sleep at the end of the day represents a small but sweet respite from that burden.

“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,” Kim Thiboldeaux, CEO of Cancer Support Community, noted in a press 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.”

There are, however, a few conditions. Applicants have to show proof of income — the maximum amount to qualify varies by household size. In addition, patients and caregivers must have to travel at least 100 miles or more for treatments, scans, clinical trials or other services.

You can find out more about what’s required to qualify here.

A child and adult holding hands at the hospital. The program is making it a little easier for people to travel with loved ones who are undergoing cancer treatment. (Photo: sumroeng chinnapan)

But Open Homes aims to be more than a welcome mat for people dealing with cancer. The idea for the project emerged back in 2012, when Airbnb hosts in New York opened their doors for people evacuating from Hurricane Sandy. It officially launched in 2013, as the Airbnb Disaster Response Tool.

Since then, the program has proven a lifeline for thousands in need. As recently as last year, the program helped house evacuees fleeing the ravages of Hurricane Florence in the Carolinas. It has also been used to help refugees from around the world resettle in new countries.

But the recent focus on people struggling with critical illness is proving just as vital.

So far, Airbnb claims about 2,000 patients and their families have booked housing through the program. And by 2022, the company vows to house 100,000 people.

That’s a lot of beds. And a lot of gratitude.

“The home was a mile away from my hospital and made me feel so safe during my aggressive cancer treatment,” one Open Homes user noted in the release. “It has been a blessing for me and my family as I’m in remission now.”

Airbnb gives cancer patients one less thing to worry about: A safe place to sleep

Airbnb is offering free housing for cancer patients and the people who care for them.


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