A Chicago couple is hoping to help victims of domestic violence who need temporary housing during the coronavirus crisis.
Ivan Orlovic and his wife Kelly Mack own a house in the city's Lakeview neighborhood, about a mile from Wrigley Field. For the past year, they've been renting out their first floor unit through Airbnb. The unit was originally booked for March and the rest of the spring season, but with a stay-at-home order in effect in Illinois, that all changed.
"With the coronavirus going on, all of our guests have canceled," said Orlovic. "The place is just sitting there for nothing. So I talked to my wife and said it would be really nice to see if there's someone out there who is in trouble or in an unhealthy situation, who needs help. We should see how we can offer our services."
Orlovic and his wife said they contacted 311 to find local agencies or organizations that could guide them in the right direction. But after making numerous phone calls, they could not get any answers.
"Getting ahold of someone in person is really hard right now. Once you do, you're waiting and waiting," he said.
On Wednesday morning, Orlovic and his wife decided to take matters into their own hands. They posted an ad on Reddit titled "Do you know someone in an abusive relationship?"
"My wife and I have a fully furnished AIrBnB. If you know someone who is trapped in an abusive relationship and needs a few weeks to find their way we will be volunteering it for free. We live in west Lakeview. We’d like to help during this crisis. Message my inbox. Please be safe out there people," the message read.
Within eight hours, Orlovic said two people reached out, to refer individuals who might be in need of temporary housing. They are following up to see if one of the two cases will work out.
"We know it's risky, because there's a lot of scammers willing to take advantage of the situation," said Orlovic. "But we are hoping to have a positive outcome and help someone else during this dire time."
The unit is furnished with a full bed, a pull-out sofa, kitchen and bathroom. Orlovic said it also includes a private entrance which provides privacy.
Orlovic and Mack said they will not be charging for the stay, but they may require the individual to sign a contract to legally protect themselves.
"We feel very fortunate in our place in life and just want to help out a little bit," said Orlovic.
Last week, advocates warned that domestic violence victims could be adversely affected by the "stay-at-home" orders. For more information, click here.