Generosity helps hundreds Find A Bed
I woke up the morning of December 30, 2019 at our small property between Picton and Camden in NSW ready to welcome friends for a New Year’s Eve celebration. By the end of the day, the course of my life had changed in an entirely unexpected direction.
Our home was in the region of the Green Wattle Creek fire. We prepared for the worst but knew, unlike so many others, we were far enough from the fire front that we were unlikely to be affected. Our local bowling club was an evacuation site. After hearing stories of elderly people sleeping the night on plastic chairs, I did the thing I usually do when I have an idea I would like to share. I Tweeted.
That was all it was at first. A single Tweet. I said: ‘Just repeating for anyone evacuating with animals: we have empty fenced paddocks available and we can house horses, etc indefinitely. Send me a DM if you need them. We’re in the Picton/Camden area SW of Sydney, not far from the Hume’.
This was reTweeted 900 times. Others replied with similar offers. I then created a simple, free website called Share a Bed, where people could register they had places for others to stay. Someone, thankfully, pointed out the unfortunate double-meaning in Share a Bed, so it was renamed Find A Bed.
I went to sleep that night knowing that about a hundred people had registered they were happy to open their homes, but without any requests for accommodation.
That changed on January 1. The first person Find A Bed was able to help was a man in his mid-70s. He was stuck due to the road closures and had spent two nights sleeping in his car. We matched him with a couple who lived in the area and he stayed in their spare room.
Then, Paige Burton, who I only knew through Twitter, offered help. She assembled an incredible team of volunteers and they went to work, answering phones, finding accommodation matches and spreading the word. Without Paige and the team, there is no way Find A Bed could have had anywhere near the impact and reach it did.
Over the coming weeks we found accommodation for people who lost their homes. We raised money for generators and we collected donations from Doctor Who fans across the globe who sent memorabilia to a young fan. We facilitated caravan donations and found volunteers to drive one from the NSW/Qld border all the way to Mogo.
When COVID hit, the team went to work again, helping health care workers who needed a place to stay away from vulnerable family members.
It was an extraordinary privilege to see the generosity and willingness of so many people to open their homes. Over 9,000 Australians volunteered to share their homes. The Find A Bed team helped hundreds of people during the two crises. We’re preparing to be ready if we need to jump into action again, but hopefully we won’t be needed for a long, long time.