Philadelphia families volunteer to host guests during Pope Francis' first U.S. visit



Pope Francis waves as he leaves the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2014.
Pope Francis, in case you haven't heard, will be visiting the United States in the fall of 2015.
The pope confirmed earlier this month that he will attend the eighth World Meeting of Families, which will be held from Sept. 22 to 27, 2015, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Preparations have since been underway in anticipation of Pope Francis' visit.
He will be the fourth reigning pope to visit the U.S.: Paul VI visited in 1965, John Paul II visited a total of seven times, and Pope Benedict XVI visited in 2008.
Event organizers expect about 15,000 attendees at the meeting, which will lead up to Pope Francis' public appearances on Sept. 26 and 27. Around 1.5 million people are expected to be in attendance on those days. The pope's appearances will include a festival and a Mass on Benjamin Franklin Parkway, a boulevard running through the heart of Philadelphia.
Catholicism is the largest religious denomination in the U.S., with about 78 million baptized members.
Philadelphia's inventory of 11,000 hotel rooms are already filling up, so World Meeting of Families organizers are hoping that 10,000 local residents will be able to host guests for a moderate fee of $30 to $50 per night.

"We hope that a large number of the people of Philadelphia — not just the Catholic community, but others — will open their homes to visitors from around the world," Archbishop Charles Chaput said.
The last World Meeting of Families, which took place three years ago in Milan, Italy, had a similar campaign that resulted in about 50,000 extra beds, according to Donna Crilley Farrell, executive director of Philadelphia's organizing committee.
More than 100 families have registered so far, Homestay CEO Alan Clarke said, adding that travelers can begin booking their stays in the coming weeks.
Homestay was founded in 2013 by Debbie Flynn, founder of Irish Education Partners, and Tom Kennedy, who previously founded HostelWorld.com.
The company is working to build awareness of homestays as a product, Clarke told Mash. Coordinating lodging for the pope's visit is a big opportunity for Homestay, which has a form on its website for Philadelphia host signups.
Homestay's service, which matches travelers and hosts based on several factors, is in safer legal territory than short-term rental sites such as Airbnb.




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