Letter to the Editor: Hooked on AirBnB

September 10, 2014 Editorial Staff
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When my father suffered a debilitating stroke, I used Airbnb to rent extra space in my home in Flatbush. The supplemental income helped me to take time off of work to care for him and to spend time with him in the house we dreamed of owning together, in the neighborhood where I was born, bred and plan to live for a long time to come.

My father, an immigrant from Trinidad, always said he wanted me to buy a house and ‘fix up’ the basement so we could live in it together–I upstairs, and he in the garden apartment downstairs.

In 2009 our wish came true: I purchased a 1901 Italianate brownstone with four bedrooms and original details including pocket doors, stained glass, coffered ceilings, moldings. Although it was a real fixer-upper, my mother called it my dream home and I wholeheartedly agree.

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For the next three years, I persevered through the restoration and renovation with the loving support of my mother, also from Trinidad, and my uncle, Brian. Together with a handful of specialists, we painted, plastered, installed three bathrooms, and upgraded the plumbing and electrical systems. Every fixture, paint color and piece of art was meticulously chosen by me and my mom who gently cautioned me to not get too attached to material possessions and to “take a step back” from time to time.

I was glad she kept me focused on the most important things in life, because around that time my father’s health and memory started a steady decline. He was in his sixties and until that point, did not have any serious medical conditions. But within six months, he went from walking with ease to using a walker to needing to be pushed in a wheelchair.

For months, the doctors weren’t sure if it was Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s and I spent what felt like hundreds of hours scheduling doctors’ appointments, arranging transportation, managing home health aides, and chasing explanations for my father’s uncharacteristic behavior.

I reached my tipping point. I felt like I couldn’t manage my job, care for my father, and upkeep on my dream home without sacrificing my own well-being. Something had to give. So I quit my job.

I knew I had to do everything in my power to make sure my father was getting the right level of care. But I also needed to make enough money to get by. Airbnb seemed like a bridge to allow me to do both.

 The first day I put up my Airbnb listing I had an inquiry, and the next day I had two guests from Australia who stayed for five days. There was a thrill to preparing the space, wondering if they would like it, hoping they would sleep well, and enjoy the neighborhood. They stayed and they liked it. I have to admit, I liked it too. They left me an online review, said I was kind, and that Flatbush is cool. I left them a positive review in return.

Fast forward to today. My father is stable and getting the care he needs. Thanks in part to Airbnb, I was able to take time away from work to be there through his healing process. Along the way, I’ve connected with so many people I would not have otherwise–people who want authentic Brooklyn experiences, here in my neighborhood, with me, a trusted friend.

Shelley Worrell

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