Living with her parents, both of whom are in their 80s and have compromised immune systems, was causing Huntsville resident Sandy Harris a huge amount of stress. An employee at the South Muskoka Memorial Hospital in Bracebridge, Harris’s job in finance deemed her essential.
“I was being as careful as I can be,” she said of avoiding contracting COVID-19, which could be deadly to her parents. “But I may pick up the virus and not show any symptoms and take it home to them.”
Harris said she checked with local motels to see if living at one might be an option, but they all quoted her around $100 a night with no weekly rate breaks. “I wouldn’t even need my room to be cleaned because I wouldn’t want anyone in my room,” she said. “I was so stressed because it would cost me more then I make to move out of my home.”
Her salvation came when she heard of an offer to use an Airbnb at no cost. “I had an instant sigh of relief,” Harris said. “As soon as I got off the phone I burst into tears.”
That relief came from Jennifer Jerrett and Brent Finn. The married couple have a condo in Hidden Valley and a completely separate apartment at their home, both of which they operate as Airbnbs which are currently sitting empty.
The official Airbnb site suggested that owners offer their spaces to frontline workers.
“As the number of cases started to grow in the area, I suggested to Brent we should offer our space up and he totally agreed,” Jerrett said.
She opted to not go through the Airbnb site, but rather to connect with her network of people and offer up her spaces.
“AirB&B is great, but I didn’t want to add even an ounce more of stress to someone by making them go through the process of applying,” she said. “I am not sure if Airbnb takes a fee, but people don’t need any added stress.”
Her network passed the word around and she was connected with Sandy Harris.
Jerrett is not worried in the least about contracting the coronavirus through this process as she and Harris will have no physical contact.
Jerrett said her spaces would normally be booked this time of year with renters coming up for events in the area. And as of only a week ago, she was still being contacted by people who wanted to book her space to get away from the city, something Jerrett has refused.
“I didn’t want to run the risk of multiple people in the space,” she said. “If people are coming up for only two days and then changing over, that is not socially responsible.”
Jerrett adds that Harris is welcome to stay until this is over at no charge.
“It was sitting empty anyway,” she said. “For us it’s all about easing the burden and the stress levels.”
Jerrett is encouraging any Airbnb owners to consider doing the same. She put a post on the Huntsville and Friends Help Out Group on Facebook where she invited Airbnb owners to contact her as well as frontline workers who need accommodations because they are concerned about continuing to live with their own family members.
For Harris, she is thankful that she is now able to continue working and not fear she could be responsible for the harm or death of her parents.
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