GoFundMe Freezes Local Campaign to House Homeless During Pandemic

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Dozens of homeless people seeking shelter during this pandemic are now back on the streets.

A local group, #HotelVouchers4All, was using a GoFundMe page to raise money to temporarily house about 30 homeless people at the Heritage Inn during the coronavirus pandemic.

But Saturday they were kicked out after GoFundMe froze #HotelVouchers4All’s funds.

Shane Mitchell is one of them. He is fighting both leukemia and homelessness.

“I’m very scared about having the possibility of going back out on the street,” Mitchell said.

Since March 1, Tasha Williamson and Amie Zamudio have been trying to keep homeless people safe from COVID-19 by getting them out of the street and into a motel room.

“There was a lot of trauma this morning,” Zamudio told NBC 7.

The group has raised more than $16,000 dollars through GoFundMe.

On Friday they got a message from the site saying their campaign was under review and their funds would be frozen in the meantime.

“They said that they needed to know that we were spending the money exactly on,” Williamson said.

#HotelVouchers4All showed NBC 7 some receipts and spreadsheets detailing what they spend their money on -- shelter, food and clothing for the homeless.

They said they also provided that information to GoFundMe.

“If it wasn’t for them I’d literally be looking for a place to hide on the streets,” Mitchell said.

The group was started to address homeless needs they say weren’t being met by San Diego County.

The county said it is giving hotel rooms to homeless people that test positive for the coronavirus, is awaiting test results, or are medically vulnerable.

Mitchell and others recently displaced don’t fall under those categories. The county has opened up the San Diego Convention Center to hundreds of homeless people, but Mitchell said they are wary that social distancing isn’t being practiced there.

“Putting me down there would be like sending me to a death trap,” Mitchell said.

So far the convention center hasn’t reported any positive COVID-19 cases.

But until the matter is resolved with GoFundMe, #Hotels4Vouchers wants the county to step up.

“Why do we need to throw this on a 3rd party?” asked Mitchell.

At last check, Mitchell and others haven’t found anywhere else to stay.

NBC 7 reached out to GoFundMe for comment. They sent the following:

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen an immense amount of global support on GoFundMe as communities across the globe band together to fundraise for the most vulnerable.

With a decade of experience in handling national tragedies around the world, our Trust & Safety team is able to mobilize to review all fundraisers, verify their beneficiaries and ensure funds only go into the right hands. At the end of the day, what matters most to us is that our users are protected and those who need help get the help they deserve.

Our Trust & Safety team has reached out to the campaign organizer and I can confirm that funds are on their way.

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