Grady Newsource students pair Hurricane Irma evacuees with Athens homeowners

Students at the University of Georgia’s Grady Newsource are using their reach in northeast Georgia to help evacuees of Hurricane Irma.

The student-run news organization at Grady College is using its website and social media platforms to create a Hurricane Irma Switchboard, which pairs hurricane evacuees with residents who want to help out by offering rooms in their homes in Athens and surrounding counties.

Garrett Michael and Emily Garrett are staffing the Hurricane Irma Switchboard Friday and Saturday, Sept. 8 & 9 from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m.

“We have the platform to put people in contact with somebody who lives here and has a room and is willing to help out,” Garrett Michael, a Grady Newsource student, said. “We got sick of asking people what they were doing for hurricane relief and nobody was doing anything, so we are just going to do it ourselves.”

When the students realized that many of the Athens-area hotels were booked, as well as rental options on websites like Airbnb, they created an online form where evacuees can post housing needs and local homeowners can post shelter offerings. Grady Newsource will staff the requests and match the parties based on available accommodations and evacuee needs such as how many people are in the family and if they have children and pets.

The students will match the interested parties, and then it will be up to the interested parties to connect with one another to determine specifics such as arrival and payment options, if any.

“We are hoping that the good in people will come out in a ‘help your fellow man’ kind of way,” Michael said of the project.

The Hurricane Irma Switchboard will be staffed by Grady Newsource students on Friday, Sept. 8 and Saturday, Sept. 9 from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m.

Visit the Grady Newsource website for details and to complete the form.