The mayor of the city that is battling a big housing crisis called the campaign "incredibly frustrating and disappointing".
GoFundMe, a site that is best known for hosting fundraisers for charity and disaster relief, saw a rather disturbing campaign recently. Residents of an affluent San Francisco neighborhood launched a crowdfunding appeal called Safe Embarcadero for All to block a new homeless shelter that is being built in their area. The campaign has reportedly raised around $70,000 (of the final target of $100,000) from wealthy residents that include hedge fund managers, executives, academics, and authors, which will be used to pay for an attorney. The campaign was strongly criticized by the city's mayor, London Breed. "It is incredibly frustrating and disappointing that as soon as we put forward a solution to build a new shelter, people begin to threaten legal action. I understand that people have questions about the site, and we are happy to demonstrate how these sites work and the positive impacts they have had in other neighborhoods, but can’t afford unnecessary delays," said Breed.
The campaign has set a target of $100,000 and is believed to have received more than 135 donations. The residents from the surrounding neighborhood claim the plans of the homeless shelter that will be built on a 2.3-acre vacant plot just beneath the Bay Bridge on the city's eastern waterfront (Embarcadero), would make the area less safe. But Breed assured, "People want us to address the challenges on our streets and help our unsheltered residents into housing, and I am committed to doing the hard work to make that happen," in a statement given to the San Francisco Chronicle.
However, not everyone is opposing the shelter. There has been an overwhelming sense of support from other city residents. A rival GoFundMe campaign, 'SAFER Embarcadero for ALL', in a bid to support the shelter, has amassed over $138,735 of its goal of $175,000 (as of Sunday). It has also drawn handsome contributions of $10,000 each from the Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, the Twilio CEO Jeff Lawson and from GoFundMe itself.
The rival campaign was created by San Francisco resident William Fitzgerald who said that the money that was coming in on the other side provoked him to swing into action. Fitzgerald added, "They clearly don’t like people who don’t have the same amount of money in their bank account as they do, they clearly don’t like people who look different, who sleep outside at night." Speaking to the San Francisco Chronicle, he said, "They’re trying to stop a shelter in the neighborhood, and these are the same people who complain about homelessness all the time."
Meanwhile, those opposing the shelter have their concerns. For instance, Wallace Lee, the father of a two-year-old and a resident who lives close to the proposed site, said he was against the project due to concerns for his family’s safety. "It is increasingly a place where people are starting families. There are a lot of strollers in the neighborhood that weren’t here when I moved in 2013," said Lee. But Kelley Cutler, a human rights organizer for the Coalition on Homelessness, says that these fears are rooted in stigma. Cutler said, "No matter where the location is, folks say this is not the right space. Not in our community. So they are going through that right now in the Embarcadero," adding that the stigma isn't unique to just San Francisco.
While the city continues to grow as a global hub for technology, it is grappling with an overwhelming homelessness crisis. According to recent estimates, there are nearly 7,500 homeless people in the city and more than 1,400 are waiting for temporary spots to open. The proposed facility, 'Navigation Center', would allow the homeless to "bring in partners and pets, and would work to connect them to city resources and services with the end goal of permanent housing. Prioritizing people living on the streets nearby, the site would also employ robust good neighbor policies and 24-hour security."
Speaking about the magnitude of the homelessness crisis, Cutler added, "We really are talking about a life and death issue; 240 people homeless people died in the city last year. The issue is impacting the community as a whole. We all need to step up – that way it can be safer for everyone."