Thousands of Grand Bahama and Abaco residents have been left homeless after Category 5 Hurricane Dorian decimated parts of northern Bahamas, which has motivated a real estate broker to seek out and organize temporary housing for those survivors as they try to pick up the pieces of their lives.
So far, Ashley Brown – a real estate broker with Damianos Sotheby’s International Realty – has secured commitments from at least 20 property owners and two hotels for the displaced residents.
“From individuals, it’s been about 20-30 personal homes and rooms in people’s houses. But we’ve also gotten positive feedback from Sandyport Beach Resort, they have given us ten rooms to house evacuees,” she told Guardian Business yesterday.
“The Fox Foundation has donated $50,000 and that is going toward short-term accommodations at Breezes. Right now, as of today, we can move 142 persons into Breezes and that’s amazing, and obviously Breezes is all-inclusive, so their meals and everything are included, which is fantastic. Sandyport Beach Resort has also offered ten of their rooms to this initiative and they’re asking that mothers with small children, expectant mothers, the disabled, the elderly, they obviously will take priority with these accommodations.”
Brown has partnered with charities including the New Providence Community Centre (NPCC), the Rotary clubs of Nassau and HeadKnowles to create a master list of homes and evacuees to help them find a temporary home.
“Obviously, the way we’re handling it is at the point of entry. So, at Odyssey [Aviation] or the docks when these evacuees are coming in, we’ve created spreadsheets with whether the evacuees have family members on Nassau or in North Eleuthera and if they don’t, then we’re asking them to fill out housing application forms, which will help us better figure out where they should be placed according to the list of inventory that we have already collected,” she said.
“We have a good team going, which consists of members from NPCC, Rotary and myself, we’re working all together. My email [is] email@example.com, that’s definitely a way people can contact me if they have a personal property or a room in their home and they want to house an evacuee.”
Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis estimated earlier this week that 60 percent of homes on Abaco were damaged and unlivable. An estimation has not been made for Grand Bahama.
Dorian left a trail of destruction in northern Bahamas, packing winds upwards of 185 miles per hour.
Brown said she considers this initiative her way of helping the many Bahamians in need.
She started by utilizing Airbnb’s Open Homes platform, which connects people with a free place to stay in times of need, supporting evacuees, relief workers, medical patients, refugees and asylum seekers.
“I started this because I personally own an Airbnb, so I’m planning on offering my personal home toward this initiative. So, I thought it would be a great idea for other persons who have Airbnbs to offer their homes toward this initiative as well. I understand there are a lot of challenges involved in offering your personal space to an evacuee. There’s a whole lot of legal concerns in terms of how long are these evacuees going to stay and then there’s also the concerns [that] relate to insurance in terms of damages,” she said.
“The great thing that Airbnb has done is they have started a program called Open Homes, which is a program encouraging hosts on Airbnb to open their homes up for free for a certain period of time to host disaster relief persons. Based on Open Homes, there are 16 people the hosts have added to the website individually, and then I have a list of persons that are not on Airbnb that have donated their spaces, which I will then add to Open Homes so that they are protected under the Airbnb host protection insurance, and that protects all properties that are on the Airbnb website up to a million dollars.”
Brown said in addition to providing relief for the survivors of Hurricane Dorian, what’s paramount for her group is protecting the rights of individuals who want to help.
“We’ve also engaged a legal team that has put together licenses for these particular leases, because obviously these properties are income-producing properties for people and they have persons coming in, let’s say at the end of the month and they can only offer their home for a certain period of time, so the licenses will protect the homeowners in the event they need to tell the evacuees they need to leave. We don’t want to get involved with eviction notices and police and that sort of thing, we just want this to be as seamless as possible,” she said.
“Obviously we are respecting the wishes of the homeowners, if they have specific requirements like, we just want a couple or a single person. We’re trying to work with satisfying the homeowners as much as we can, because obviously this is such a fantastic donation and they’re giving their places out of the goodness of their hearts and we want to make sure that this is done properly, and it doesn’t turn into a situation that can be chaotic.”