Atlanta residents coordinate efforts to offer free housing for Hurricane Irma evacuees 

10:29 p.m Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017 AJC Homepage

Atlanta area residents are coordinating efforts to offer up their homes for Hurricane Irma evacuees

Vanessa Faraj, a Decatur resident, started an online Google form Wednesday morning for people with space in their home to share. She calls the effort, "Atlanta Solidarity Housing." 

The goal is to compile a list of Atlanta area residents who can share their homes and pair them with hurricane evacuees in need of temporary shelter. 

"I know if I was in a situation like this, I would like for someone to show up for me and my family,” said Faraj. “It’s hard to see people suffering and not want to do something about it.” 

As of Thursday evening, Faraj had obtained 65 volunteers who can provide shelter. 

As the hurricane looked more likely to slam into South Florida, hundreds of thousands of people were ordered to evacuate.

RELATED: Atlanta mosques open doors for Hurricane Irma evacuees

Faraj said a friend originally from Miami was expressing her concern about friends and family. At the same time, Faraj kept seeing people on Facebook post offers of a place to stay. Faraj worried these kind offers could simply “vanish into thin air,” unless there was a more organized effort to help people. 

So Faraj, who is a social worker and community organizer, decided to get to work. 

Faraj is already pairing families in need with families opening up their homes. She’s helped connect a group of four adults from Key West which includes an adult child and her medically fragile parents in their 80s with a woman in Atlanta who is offering the group a finished basement with small kitchen for several days, even through September if need be. The group from Key West is traveling to Atlanta on a bus, and they are expected to arrive 8:45 a.m. Saturday woman. 

Faraj, who lives in a studio apartment in Decatur, has even offered her tiny abode. 

“I can stay with family nearby,” said Faraj without hesitation. Faraj actively volunteers in the community. She has organized groups of volunteers to help refugees in Clarkston with transportation needs and to offer English as a Second Language classes. 

Gov. Nathan Deal issued a mandatory evacuation order Thursday for all areas east of I-95 and other parts of the state’s coast as Hurricane Irma barrels toward Florida and Georgia with potentially catastrophic force

The governor’s executive order also authorized up to 5,000 Georgia National Guard members to be on active duty to respond to the deadly storm. And he expanded a state of emergency to 30 southeast Georgia counties. 

Meanwhile, hotels in Georgia have started to book up. Ken Patel, who manages a hotel in middle, said all of his rooms are booked, and other hotels along I-75 have also seen a surge in reservations. A manager of a Tifton hotel told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution she couldn’t talk for long because the phones had been ringing constantly with people needing rooms.

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As Hurricane Irma heads towards Florida and South Georgia, metro Atlantans are opening their homes to evacuees

RELATED: Hurricane Irma: Map of Georgia Evacuation Zones

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