In Brief

Wealthy San Francisco residents raise money to block homeless shelter

Mayor’s proposal prompts battle between rival GoFundMe factions in America’s homelessness capital

A proposed homeless shelter in San Francisco has sparked an online battle between rival crowd-funding factions, after wealthy residents attempted to block the centre from being built in their neighbourhood.

In early March, San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced a proposal to open a so-called “navigation center” in the city’s affluent Embarcadero waterfront district. Mashable describes the centre as a “comprehensive homeless shelter that offers services and counseling as well as a place to sleep” for 200 homeless people in the city.

Breed said the centre was an attempt by the city to “address the challenges on our streets and help our unsheltered residents into housing”. San Francisco has the highest rate of street homelessness in the US, with more than 7,500 transients sleeping without a roof over their heads, The Guardian reports.

However, just weeks after the announcement, a group of residents in the Embarcadero – led by a Silicon Valley lawyer – launched a campaign on crowd-funding site GoFundMe to cover legal fees to challenge the shelter’s construction. So far the group, which has dubbed itself “Safe Embarcadero for All”, has raised over $60,000 from its “luxury high-rise headquarters”, Gizmodo says.

The group says it is “concerned about safety, property crime and drug use”, according to Hoodline, with one resident telling reporters: “[The Embarcadero] 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.”

The campaign has been met with a fierce backlash, with one San Francisco resident, William Fitzgerald, setting up his own GoFundMe in response, dubbed “SAFER Embarcadero for ALL”.

“I saw the [GoFundMe] yesterday and I was so surprised how brazen these people were. Usually, these things happen behind closed doors, but they’re doing it so publicly, with their names on it,” Fitzgerald told SF Weekly. “Everyone complains about homelessness, and when they have an option to give shelter to someone on the streets they do this.”

The rival group says that it will “support the Coalition on Homelessness’s pro-Navigation Center efforts” while simultaneously “trolling the haters”. GoFundMe has taken the unusual step of donating $5,000 towards Fitzgerald’s counter-campaign.

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