Safely housing Ukrainian refugees in SWFL via new website

Reporter: Asha Patel Writer: Joey Pellegrino
Published: Updated:
A volunteer of the Ukrainian Territorial Defense Forces assists a woman to cross the street in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 16, 2022. Both Russia and Ukraine projected optimism ahead of another scheduled round of talks Wednesday, even as Moscow’s forces rained fire on Kyiv and other major cities in a bid to crush the resistance that has frustrated Kremlin hopes for a lightning victory. (AP Photo/Andrew Marienko)

As more Ukrainians are forced from their country by the Russian invasion, families in Southwest Florida are volunteering to provide a safe place for refugees.

People with spare rooms or extra space to take in refugees are posting on a website called Ukraine Take Shelter. Two Harvard students created the site to help connect Ukrainian refugees with potential hosts. If you want to host, you just plug in your location, how much space you have available- and how many people you’re willing to host.

Dozens of people from all over Southwest Florida have already signed up on the site to help, including Cape Coral resident Scott Kleveno.

“It’s a no-brainer, it’s, you know, you’re helping someone that’s basically possibly homeless—their home has been blown up,” Kleveno said.5 “I’ve been on video chats with the families through Telegram video chat and we’ve talked every day for the past four or five days,  answering questions.”

One of the families Kleveno is talking to has two children. The parents want their kids to get to the U.S. but their biggest concern is getting in safely. Kleveno says he’s worried about helping them get here because flights are expensive.

But there are some other safety concerns. WINK News spoke with a cybersecurity expert who says while most people genuinely want to help, this is also a time when scammers try to exploit people. Ukraine Take Shelter has some safety tips for users, providing questions you should ask, red flags you should look out for and suggestions like coordinating video calls so hosts and refugees can meet prior to the stay.

Alan Crowetz, CEO of Infostream, says one of the biggest red flags people should look out for is if a host or refugee asks for sensitive information while trying to get to know you.

“Every time you see someone who asked you a question and wants to know more about your background, ask yourself, ‘Is this really needed for this transaction?’ If you’re going to rent your house or work with somebody who’s going to help place Ukrainians, do you need to give your social security information? Do you need to tie them into your Facebook page or your bank account? Or, you know, really ask those kinds of questions, because data is what the bad guys want.”

The website also stresses that the safety of every refugee and host safety is their own responsibility.

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