ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/Getty Images
September 12, 2018 04:47 PM

Airbnb has made its accommodations free for evacuees and disaster relief workers of Hurricane Florence.

The home-sharing and travel company is offering free lodging in numerous metropolitan areas across North Carolina (Charlotte and Greensboro), South Carolina (Columbia, Greenville and Spartanburg), Georgia (Atlanta and Augusta) and Virginia (Charlottesville), through its Open Homes Program.

According to their website, the program, which originated in the wake of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, has since enabled Airbnb hosts to provide free temporary housing to over 11,000 people “displaced by natural disasters, conflict or illness.”

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“In the event of major emergencies like this one, Airbnb’s Disaster Response Program helps local residents who have been displaced—as well as emergency relief workers and volunteers who are coming in to assist—find temporary accommodations with local Airbnb hosts who are opening their homes free of charge,” a representative for the company tells PEOPLE.

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The spokesperson says the $0 housing listings will be available until October 1 and all local taxes/fees will also be waived. Airbnb tells PEOPLE in a statement that they “will continue to expand the territory of Open Homes listings if and where needed, or as requested by local officials” as the storm approaches.

Hosts in the participating areas can offer their homes and extra rooms through Airbnb’s website, and in return, the company will provide safety checks and 24/7 phone support services. People in need of a place to stay do not need to be existing Airbnb customers, and can create a verified account for a free stay during the natural disaster at any point.

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As of Wednesday afternoon, over 350 Airbnb hosts had opened their homes to those needing shelter.

“We encourage hosts in these areas to help those in need by listing their available rooms or homes on the platform for free,” Kim Rubey, Airbnb’s Global Head of Social Impact and Philanthropy, tells PEOPLE in a statement. “Our thoughts continue to be with everyone in the path of the storm, and we thank the dedicated government and emergency response personnel who are keeping our communities safe.”

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