'You're not alone': Australian families open up their homes for free to bushfire victims

Tom Flanagan
News Reporter

Australian families are opening their doors to families fleeing fire-ravaged communities with nowhere to go.

Hundreds of homes have been destroyed since the New Year’s bushfires ripped through parts of NSW’s South Coast and Victoria’s East Gippsland region, with some residents left with nothing but the clothes on their backs.

Thousands more are fleeing NSW’s south along the Princes Highway with little food, water and fuel to escape the region, which is set to burn further in “unprecedented” conditions on Saturday, authorities said on Thursday.

With the rest of Australia – many helpless – watching on in disbelief, some people are doing anything they can to help the victims.

Penny Martin offered accomodation to a small family affected by the fires. Source: Facebook

Several people took to social media to share their offers to families in desperate need of accomodation.

“Just putting it out there for anyone needing a room from displacement from bushfires. We can help,” Sydney resident Penny Martin said online.

“I can donate my Airbnb room for a week or two. The room can take two adults, one child max.

“We feel your pain and you’re not alone.”

Penny Martin pictured with her children at their Arncliffe home. Source: Supplied

Ms Martin told Yahoo News Australia that any couple or small family affected in the crisis was welcome to come stay at her family’s Arncliffe home.

“Because we are in the city and feel so powerless for all involved either that live in the country areas or a tourist that have been caught up in this disaster I feel this is a small way we may be able to help,” she said.

She said she and her family wanted to fulfil an “act of kindness” instead of simply talking about the bushfires.

Another young family offered their air-conditioned home in Canberra to a family with pets.

“Please do not hesitate to reach out for help. Stay safe everyone,” they said online.

The family informed Yahoo News Australia they had joined Facebook group Bushfire Emergency Accomodation Canberra. While the page was only set up on Wednesday, there is already over 2000 members.

“It has been incredible seeing the amount of community support and spirit people have,” they said.

Another young family offered their Canberra home. Source: Facebook

After sharing their offers on Facebook, others commended their generosity.

“The true nature of our fellow Australians is overwhelmingly amazing,” one person wrote.

“What a fantastic way to help others when in need. Definitely the Australian way!” another said.

Most of the people making the offers, including Ms Martin, had registered their homes for bushfire victims on Airbnb’s Open Homes.

The online community on the accomodation site allows users of the site to offer their properties free of charge during times of crisis.

The upcoming conditions across Australia's southeast will be unprecedented, authorities say. Pictured is a Nowra road on NYE. Source: AAP

“Open Homes lets hosts offer their space for free to people going through a difficult time,” Airbnb says.

The fires have claimed the lives of eight people since Monday – seven in NSW and one in Victoria.

There are also 17 people unaccounted for in Victoria.

The fires have claimed at least 382 homes in NSW since New Year’s Eve.

Anyone needing accomodation can contact Open Homes through Airbnb’s website.

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