GoFundMe returns over $400,000 to donors hoping to support homeless man

Sanai Graden, said all she wanted to do was help a man experiencing homelessness get treatment and permanent housing.

WASHINGTON — A fashion student in D.C. went viral for raising almost a half a million dollars for a homeless man that she met and connected with. But now, after raising all that money GoFundMe is going to send everyone a refund.

It was friends at first sight for Sanai Graden ran into Alonzo by chance in February. Alonzo was experiencing homelessness, so Graden stepped in and offered help. Then she documented it all on TikTok and millions of people tuned in to their videos.

RELATED: Money raised to help man experiencing homelessness being held by GoFundMe, TikToker says

But later down the road after their story went viral and raised over $400,000 on GoFundMe it’ll all be refunded.

“A lot has occurred in private, now I sat on it, I prayed on it,” TikToker who raised funds, Sanai Graden said on TikTok. “I cried about it.”

Graden posted a twelve-part series on TikTok with an update, saying she went several days without talking to Alonzo. GoFundMe refused to release the money until the website could establish a connection with Alonzo and part of that required Alonzo to get an ID.

Alonzo never got an ID, even months later and Alonzo stopped responding to some of Graden’s calls.

“That’s all I wanted for him, was just get the housing, get the medical care that’s all I wanted for him and there’s only so much I can do,” Graden said on TikTok. “I cannot force him to go do certain things.”

GoFundMe released a statement saying in part, ” Since the fundraiser’s launch, GoFundMe remained fully committed to helping deliver the funds raised to Mr. Hebron, just as the donors intended, and as our Terms of Service require. However, without the cooperation of the organizer or the beneficiary, delivering these funds to Mr. Hebron has not been possible. At the request of the organizer, donors will be refunded.”

“I’m just really fighting so hard for somebody that’s not fighting for themselves,” Graden said.

We spoke with the National Alliance to End Homelessness who says we often see GoFundMe accounts for basic things people should have access to like housing.

“In the instance of a concerned citizen, coming across someone who’s in need of services it can be hard to help navigate all those different systems of care,” National Alliance to End Homelessness Vice President, Mary Frances Kenion said.

She says there’s not just one approach to help people experiencing homelessness.

“If we want to ensure that we all have access to stable homes and thriving communities we’ve got to connect to those drivers that make opportunity possible and that is systems,” Kenion said.

Meanwhile, Graden says a friendship that started at first sight has taught her a lifelong lesson.

“You cannot help people that don’t want to be helped and you literally cannot force anything,” Graden said. “What’s meant to be will be.”

Graden says she still plans to start a nonprofit to help others and will help Alonzo if he decides to reach back out. 

If you would like to help someone experiencing homelessness, the National Alliance to End Homelessness recommends joining non-profits who are on the front lines trying to make an impact on people experiencing homelessness. Click here for more information on how you can help.

RELATED: DC TikToker raises more than $400K on GoFundMe to help man experiencing homelessness

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