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Austin residents offer shelter to refugees from Ukraine

The website Ukraine Take Shelter is helping connect people in Ukraine looking for help to people around the world.

AUSTIN, Texas — In Austin, families are offering a place to stay to Ukrainian refugees who were forced to leave everything behind when Russia invaded last month.

The website Ukraine Take Shelter is helping connect people in Ukraine looking for help to people around the world.

As people continue to escape the war in Ukraine, Eileen and Kevin Crowley are ready to offer shelter.

"We have an extra bedroom and I thought, what better way to offer assistance than offer home?" Eileen Crowley said.

The Crowleys are no strangers to welcoming others into their home. They've hosted foreign exchange students and Eileen Crowley said that, growing up, her family hosted people from around the globe. This time they both said it feels different. 

"It's just devastating. I can't imagine uprooting my family and fleeing to another country," Eileen Crowley said. 

"I feel terrified for them. The horrors of war are awful," Kevin Crowley said. 

They are just one of millions worldwide who are now registered on Ukraine Take Shelter, ready to open their doors for refugees. 

The website was created by two Harvard students and after some concern online about safety, they added a comprehensive host verification process. Hosts are now required to scan their passport, driver's license, or other government ID, which is verified as real, and then it is cross-checked with facial recognition software to confirm that the ID matches.

Ying Liu and Chaim Eliya have never hosted anyone before but they felt compelled to help.

"There's that old adage like, if you want them to come across, would you invite them into your own home? And so we just wanted to say, yes, we would invite them into our home," Eliya said. 

For Liu, seeing the explosions in Ukraine hit close to home. In 2015, she was living in Tianjin, China, where a series of explosions happened near her home at a container storage station.

"It's not war for me, for my situation, but for this situation in Ukraine right now, like you don't have any place to go but to flee out of the country. I could have gone to my parents' house, but where can they go?" Liu said. 

A quick search shows about 40 families in Austin have listed their homes on the website. Both families said they're inspired by how willing people are to help.

"We can't un-launch missile, but we can try to help out along the way," Eliya said. 

"I hope that we can have peace. Whatever that looks like, you know," Eileen Crowley said. 

While they haven't heard from anyone yet, they said they'll be waiting with open arms for if and when they do.

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