JACKSONVILLE, N.C. – As thousands flee inland from the path of Hurricane Florence, many people are using social media to help find a place to stay.
Relying on the kindness of complete strangers, organizers of a Facebook group say expensive and overbooked hotels have made it hard for people to find a safe haven from the storm. A closed Facebook group called ‘Hurricane Florence Lodging for Evacuees,’ which was created during Hurricane Irma, has been rebranded to help those escaping Florence. People have to request to join the group.
“All these people open up their homes for free,” said Katlyn McBrayer who is one of the administrators of the Facebook group. “A lot of them will allow your pets to come in, some of them will allow you to bring your livestock, your horses. They will feed you, clothe you and they will let you stay until, you know, it’s safe for you to go back.”
McBrayer says she’s seen a major influx of people volunteering to help and shelter evacuees. The group has over 3,500 members with the majority being people offering to assist those fleeing from the storm.
The social media page has already helped families connect with those opening up their homes. Vanessa Suggs is evacuating with her family and her dog from the Myrtle Beach, S.C. area.
“It was a huge blessing for us because we needed a place to stay,” Suggs said. “Now that this hurricane has shifted more towards Myrtle Beach and more south a lot of people that were going to stay are evacuating and so there’s not really that [many] option[s] to choose from.”
Suggs will evacuate to the Athens, Ga. area and stay at a cabin and farm owned by Georgia resident Anthony Chapman, who decided to help after watching news coverage of the storm.
“I basically got on Facebook and just searched for hurricane evacuation [and] happen to hit that particular group,” Chapman said. “…I’m 62 and [my] kids are grown,” he added. “Life’s good so it’s like what can I do to help somebody out and kind of pay it forward if you will [to] do a good deed for my fellow man and that was the thought behind it.”
Unlike a traditional hotel or Airbnb reservation, the group is a person-to-person interaction method. Samantha Ainslie, who has a room available in the Fort Mill, S.C. area says she doesn’t believe those truly in need will take advantage of the help they receive.
“We’re opening our home because people are in trouble,” said Ainslie who lives in Fort Mill, S.C. “I don’t think people would take advantage of a situation like this where there are people whose lives are genuinely in danger and they need a place to stay.”