Airbnb and Governor Newsom’s office today announced they will partner with the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence (the Partnership) to support residents fleeing domestic violence amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. This new pilot program will help provide domestic violence survivors in Sacramento, San Francisco and Los Angeles access to no-cost accommodations.
The program is part of a broader package announced today by the State of California to support victims of domestic violence and the organizations that serve them. The announcement comes as state officials take action to address the escalation of domestic violence during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. With the State-mandated ‘Stay at Home’ Order in effect, reliable shelter is critical to prevent survivors from being forced to remain in potentially unsafe environments.
“I applaud Airbnb’s commitment to supporting domestic violence victims in California,” said California First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom. “Now more than ever, businesses across the state must rise up to create a culture of me to we, and help us get through this crisis together.”
The City of Los Angeles and the office of San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin will work with the Partnership to identify domestic violence survivors in need of temporary housing. The Partnership will then work closely with local domestic violence organizations to secure accommodations on behalf of individuals. Stays will be funded by a contribution from Airbnb Co-Founder and CEO Brian Chesky. Last month Airbnb launched a similar program with Chicago Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot and the Illinois Domestic Violence Hotline to connect victims with a place to stay.
“During these unprecedented times it is crucial domestic violence survivors have a place to seek refuge. We are grateful to Governor Newsom and the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence for their commitment to support victims of domestic violence across California,” said Matt Middlebrook, Regional Policy Director, Airbnb. “Survivors of domestic violence have strong allies in the City of Los Angeles and San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin and we are proud to work alongside them to ensure these individuals do not fall through the cracks amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.”
These accommodations will be available to those who may need to flee a violent situation, and the Partnership will facilitate the program through local domestic violence organizations in a manner that protects both the anonymity and privacy of the victim. If successful, the program could expand to other cities across California.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has intensified the existing crisis of survivor homelessness in California. With Airbnb’s generous donation, domestic violence organizations will be able to offer more survivors the immediate relief of a comfortable place to stay,” said Krista Niemczyk, Public Policy Manager, California Partnership to End Domestic Violence. “Instead of being faced with the impossible choice of staying in a violent environment or becoming homeless, survivors will be able to begin their healing journey.”
The pilot program builds on ongoing efforts by the City of Los Angeles and San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin to support domestic violence survivors. Most recently, District Attorney Chesa Boudin secured free transportation and housing for victims of domestic violence, including 20 furnished apartments.
“As we continue to shelter in place to limit COVID transmission, survivors of domestic violence continue to be at risk of victimization by their abusers,” said San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin. “This collaborative effort expands our capacity to ensure that every single survivor of domestic violence in our city has a safe place to shelter. We thank the Governor’s office, Airbnb and the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence for dedicating much needed resources to some of the most vulnerable members of our community.”
The overwhelming need for services, compounded with financial stress caused by COVID-19, has caused an increase in calls to the National Domestic Violence Hotline (The Hotline). Between February 24 and May 19, The Hotline answered 8,371 calls, chats, and texts from domestic violence victims in California. In addition, between May 16 and May 19, The Hotline answered more than 1,000 COVID-19 related calls, online chats and texts from individuals in California. This puts the state in the top percentile of COVID-19 related domestic violence calls in the nation. In addition, housing is consistently identified as a top need by survivors.
Survivors and their loved ones can reach out for support by contacting the 24-hour National Domestic Violence Hotline: Call 1-800-799-7233, click “Chat Now” at www.thehotline.org, or text LOVEIS to 22522.