Crowdfunding Ethics

Homeless Hero of Manchester Bombing Still Homeless Despite £50,000 GoFundMe Windfall

Help Chris Parker

Late yesterday, a woman named Marissa Lowe bumped into homeless hero Chris Parker on the streets of Manchester and was shocked to discover he was still homeless. Parker was one of two homeless men who immediately ran to aid victims of the attack at Manchester Arena on May 22. A GoFundMe campaign started May 23 by a Michael Johns to help Parker has raised £52,033 in a matter of days; it initially had a modest goal of £1,000.

After Lowe’s post started going viral, Johns wrote an update addressing the issue that Parker was still living on the streets. “As you can imagine the handing over of 50000 is not a simple issue and requires the input of accountant and solicitors as well as homeless outreach workers who know Chris personally,” he said. “At the end of last week we enquired with gofundme about being able to draw out some of the money to keep Chris going in the meantime. Gofundme have stated this is not possible due to their payment processor. We are meeting with Chris now to discuss how to take this forward and if there is anything we can do in lieu of the funds being transferred.”

In other words, both GoFundMe and Johns have self-appointed themselves as fiduciaries of Parker’s funds, overseeing distribution. This, of course, has led to just a tiny bit of vitriol on behalf of the concerned internet. This too has led to some donors requesting refunds, as they gave assuming the funds would directly and immediately reach Parker, not be stuck in limbo while the campaign organizer and GoFundMe work out how exactly that will happen from the comfort of their own homes with Parker still crashing wherever he can find shelter.

In the latest update posted to the campaign for Parker, Johns writes:

This campaign was set up with the goal of getting £1000 raised to keep Chris ticking over in the short term and for him to use to get himself off the street. The response was absolutely unprecedented and raised over £52000 amidst global press coverage.

With the response it has gone from being a fairly straightforward case of just handing over a relatively small amount to having an amount that is *potentially* life changing.

In the course of the early days of the campaign, I sort out advice from numerous different homelessness organisations that progressed on to speaking to outreach workers who know Chris personally.

The model I proposed was to have the money put in to a trust with 5 trustees. Myself on behalf of the campaign and donors, a Solicitor, an Accountant, a homelessness outreach worker and a homelessness support professional with weighting giving to the opinions of the outreach worker and support professional.

Allow me to stop you right there. Nowhere in the original campaign does it make any mention of trustees (certainly not the campaign organizer among them), lawyers, accountants, and caseworkers. The response to the campaign was overwhelming, sure, but in such a highly-publicized, tragic situation such as this, it wasn’t outside of the realm of possibility that the campaign would go viral and go on to raise the large amount it has. Johns should have considered this from the beginning; instead, he rushed to create a campaign, and is now taking it upon himself to manage funds.

His update continues:

The trust will ensure the goal of the campaign is honoured (to “help”) whilst making sure every penny go’s towards what it was intended for when donated and is utilised in the most effective manner.

There is a numerous list of advantages for Chris personally in this set-up too.

I would like to remind everybody that Chris is a vulnerable person who in the space of little over 8 days has had to deal with a terror attack in which adults and children were killed and maimed, a reunion with his mother, unprecedented press coverage, the responsibility and considerations of 10’s of thousands of pounds being donated to him, all whilst still wondering where his next meal is or where he is staying the night.

After the update last night gofundme have emailed me and stated that they are willing to release a small amount so Chris’s needs can be met in the meantime.
However I have been unable to contact him today..

Until contact can be made and a satisfactory conclusion reached with Chris the likelihood is you will still see him about the streets. The end goal is for Chris to be taken off the streets permanently and given a second chance to get things right. Short term thinking could be extremely damaging.

So tens of thousands of pounds are sitting there untouched and Parker is in the exact same situation he was prior to the bombing, with total strangers in control of his future under the guise of what’s best for him.

Johns continues:

The majority of discontent is coming from those who have not donated but I believe this may be having an effect on people who have so I felt it important to dress as much as I can.

I will say if you do see Chris please consider what I’ve said above and think twice before posting to social media or making statements to the press. A lot of good can come from media attention but also a lot of negative.

In other words, he believes Lowe’s Facebook post did more harm than good, even though without it donors and the world at large wouldn’t know that this man they rushed to help get off the streets is, in fact, still on those same streets. Got it.

Safe to say this is a mess, and a huge reason why you should think twice before creating a GoFundMe campaign for someone else, especially if you are a total stranger. It is our humble opinion — along with countless other third party observers — that Johns should recuse himself from middleman and at a minimum pass the money along to a trusted homeless organization for Parker’s benefit or, even better, directly to Parker himself. Instead, he’s playing GoFundMe police, under the guise of concern for Parker (which really is just a veiled way of suggesting that Parker might blow the money, despite the fact that it is his to blow).

Meanwhile, Marissa Lowe said she saw Parker again and that “he is aware of the post and said it’s helped.” Here’s hoping this can be resolved and soon, for Parker’s sake.