The online funding campaign for an Ann Arbor homeless couple hit a significant bump Tuesday.
Kinesiology freshman Michael Funkhouser, who launched the campaign earlier this month, said several people purporting to be family and friends of Mat and Danielle Chavez are now calling the couple’s story into question.
Funkhouser posted an update on the fundraiser’s home page Tuesday explaining the allegations, and providing new options for the money’s destination. The campaign has raised $7,347 so far.
Tuesday evening, Funkhouser announced the money would be given to a local non-profit for the purpose of helping the couple secure jobs and housing. The organization would steward the money, rather than give the funds to the Chavez’s directly.
Funkhouser wrote in a Facebook post that people claiming to be Mat Chavez’s relatives had contacted him, warning that the couple was on the street because of drug use, not due to an illness that resulted in a lost job and ultimately homelessness. He added that he had reached out directly to Danielle Chavez’s family, who corroborated this story and said the couple should not receive the money.
“If Mat and Danielle are on drugs and not responsible with what they are given or are not willing to accept the help that is offered, the charity would use the money towards helping the homeless community of Ann Arbor,” he said.
The Michigan Daily could not confirm these comments from family members. Mat Chavez declined to comment Tuesday afternoon.
Funkhouser noted that he has no proof of the allegations and does not know if they are true, but felt that he had to inform the donors because he doesn’t want them to feel deceived.
“I don’t have any, like, cold hard evidence either way,” Funkhouser said in an interview with the Daily. “I just know what Mat and Danielle have said. And I know what the people that know them and other people have said. As of right now I don’t know what’s true and what’s not true.”
Before deciding to leave the money in care of a non-profit, Funkhouser laid out new options for donating the money raised. These included giving the money to Danielle’s parents to start a college fund for the Chavez’ daughters, giving the money directly to the couple, or refunding the donors — though he would have to check if this is possible and, if so, to what extent. He asked for donors’ feedback to determine which option he would choose.
Funkhouser said he personally thought giving the money to the charity would be the best option. From his Facebook post, he explained that the money would still go toward helping the rest of Ann Arbor’s homeless community if the Chavez couple is not eligible to receive funding through the charity.
He added that most of the people who contacted him after he posted the update on social media and the fundraising page agreed that this would be the best course of action.
“I don’t want anyone who donated or anyone who helped out with this to feel bad about happened because we still have the chance to make the money go to a really good cause,” he said. “We just have to figure out that cause now. So it’s a little disappointing but it’s not the end.”
Funkhouser said the new developments were disappointing because the campaign had seemed to be so successful and for a good cause.
“The original goal of this campaign was to help a homeless family get off of the streets and this solution will do that, whether that be Mat and Danielle or another family,” he wrote on the fundraising page. “I believe that by giving the money to a charity that is experienced in these types of situations is the most responsible decision at this time.”