A Montreal-based group of tech entrepreneurs is turning their skills to help with with housing incoming refugees.
Their idea? WeHostRefugees.org. Co-founder Jenviev Azzolin says it’s about turning online “sharing economy” type tools towards solving the problem.
“WeHost is very similar to AirBnB, but the objective is to find a temporary home for a refugee or a refugee family.”
On the website, people with extra rooms in their home can sign up to host a family or individual for anywhere from two nights to two months.
Azzolin says once people have signed up, volunteers contact them to learn a little more about the host and the space available before putting it into their database
An algorithm is then used to try and find the best match based on the refugees needs and what hosts are providing.
“One of our members will contact you to find out more about the space you have available, how long you can host, if you have particular requirements, the number of people you can take, etc. And that goes into our database which is what we use to try and find a match.”
Azzolin says the project was about finding a way to use her tech skills to help Canada with its promise to help Syrians fleeing the war.
“I kind of wanted something hands on where I feel like I’m making a difference in the life of somebody, and this is a great way to do that.”
Once a match is made, a contract is drawn up between the refugee (or refugee family) and host.
The partners are then assigned a WeHost volunteer ‘ambassador’ who can help resolve any problems down the road, or find new accommodation if things aren’t working out.
At the moment, the group is mainly handling requests to house privately sponsored refugees.