Community-led Google Doc Connects Fire Evacuees With Free Shelter

If you need free shelter, the Google Doc lists available homes.

As hotels and evacuation centers continue to fill with people, a public Google Doc is becoming a lifeline for evacuees seeking free shelter from the devastating and deadly wildfires ravaging Northern California. 

More than 100 Bay Area residents in safe locations have added their name to the spreadsheet, offering up their available houses, rooms and even comfy living-room couches. 

The list continues to grow as it circulates on community message boards and on social media. People have recently begun adding other services, including free transportation. 

So far, a handful of people said they found shelter through the list.

Ryan Nadeau, who lives in San Francisco, created the document. The tech worker is traveling through Ibiza, Spain, and described feeling “helpless” and “guilty” watching the fires unfold. He posted the document on his Facebook, and it spread from there, with tech industry friends making edits and turning it into an easy-to-navigate spreadsheet. 

He described it as a useful alternative to Airbnb Open Homes, a program that the house-sharing platform activates during some natural disasters. Currently, Airbnb is facilitating free shelter until Oct. 30. 

“Open Homes is great, but it’s just for a couple weeks,” Nadeau said. “People are going to need much longer than that if they’ve lost everything. Hopefully, this will allow people to find shelter for as long as they need it.” 

The Google Doc is also publically accessible to anyone with an internet connection, so users don’t have to create an account to access it. 

“A couple times it’s brought tears to my eyes watching people populate this in real time from so far away,” Nadeau said. 

Matt Sulkis, who listed his San Francisco home, said it seemed like the most direct way to reach people who need help. 

“ A lot of us are local and grew up here, and we figured it was one less step,” he said. “We wanted to get something out there quick.”

The document is just one of many ways the broader Bay Area community has been rallying around victims of the massive infernos. People have also been flocking to donation centers, crowdfunding sites, and community groups to offer aid. 

So far, More than a dozen California fires have torched a combined 140,000 acres since Sunday, destroyed thousands of structures and sending more than 20,000 people fleeing from homes in more than six counties. 

At least 24 people perished in the blazes, and officials expect the death toll to rise. Hundreds are still unaccounted for, and possibly thousands more will return to their homes to find only ash and charred wreckage remaining. 

“It looks like a nuclear blast hit,” said John Fornachan, who lost a home in Santa Rosa that had been in his family for more than 100 years. “Everything is just wiped out.”

“We’re going to have to start from scratch,” he continued. 

Have something to add? Contact Access the Google Doc here or in the hyperlinks above. Find more fire coverage here.  Find ways to help here. 

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