Airbnb Teams Up with San Jose State, City to Offer Free Lodging to Homeless College Students

Airbnb has launched a pilot program to offer free room and board to homeless San Jose State students. The short-term rental company’s initiative comes as part of a partnership with the city of San Jose, SJSU and the nonprofit Bill Wilson Center in response to the growing population of unsheltered young adults pursuing a higher education.

With a $250,000 state grant, the Bill Wilson Center—a nonprofit that provides services to homeless and runaway youth—will reserve and pay for Airbnb rooms for needy students. Students who qualify for the Airbnb stays will work with counselors to find permanent housing.

Airbnb Senior Vice President Chris Lehane said the rooms will be reserved for students who are “facing a short term challenge, a bridge-like situation, where they have to look at tuition or end of the quarter bills or food.”

Airbnb beta-tested the program two years ago when it offered temporary shelter to people displaced by the Coyote Creek flood in San Jose. At a Wednesday morning press conference at the Bill Wilson Center, Lehane said he knows that hosts are enthused about the idea and that he hopes to expand the project across the nation.

San Jose’s campaign with Airbnb comes at a time when local lawmakers are facing mounting pressure to address the local homelessness crisis.

Last month, a SJSU activist group called the Student Homeless Alliance called on the school’s administration to ramp up its efforts to house unsheltered college-goers, who comprise 13 percent of the school’s attendees. More recently, Santa Clara County leaders publicly pledged to house 100 students in 100 days.

SJSU Vice President for Student Affairs Patrick Day said the school will survey the number of homeless students for the 2019-20 school year and will soon announce new initiatives to provide affordable housing for students.

“The reality is that college students should be worrying about their final exams, and not about where they’re going to sleep tonight,” Mayor Sam Liccardo said. “So we are collectively committed to ending the scourge of homelessness among our students and Airbnb has stepped up in a big way.”

Nicholas Chan is a journalist who covers politics, culture and current events in Silicon Valley. Follow him on Twitter at @nicholaschanhk.


  1. I always wondering what these housing counselors would accomplish when I was in school in a similar situation. Maybe times have changed, but when I was there it was like someone who would basically tell you “yah, you need money”.

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