People who made donations to an online crowdfunding effort started by a woman to stave off her pending eviction have been refunded more than $67,000 in contributions after it was revealed she misrepresented herself in a plea for help keeping her home.
“We owe $1,900 for rent alone not including utilities. I will figure out utilities by pawning a few things. As you all know it is entirely still to [sic] hot to be homeless,” Kelly wrote. “My daughter’s [sic] are aged 5, 6, and 8. Please help with anything you can.”
The GoFundMe, entitled, “Help My Girls & I avoid eviction,” quickly went viral after CNN interviewed Kelly and invited attention that helped generate more than 10 times the amount the 32-year-old was seeking. The figure ballooned to more than $234,000 at one point.
During the interview, Kelly wept with happiness and expressed gratitude to Missouri Rep. Cori Bush, who has been at the forefront of the battle to cancel rent and stop evictions.
But last week, Kelly updated the GoFundMe page with a disclaimer: She is not the children’s biological mother.
“The girls recognize me as a mother figure in their lives, but I am not their biological mother. My partner is the children’s father whom I do not live with, and I take care of these girls in my home for periods of time, and have for the last couple years,” Kelly wrote while saying that doesn’t change the nature of the urgency for her need for financial assistance. “I’ve loved these girls unconditionally, and have been out of the kindness of my heart. I treat them as my daughters, and care for them in this way.”
That disclosure resulted in GoFundMe freezing Dasha’s account, even though it’s certainly not out of the ordinary for a person who did not biologically have children to not only act as their parent but also be referred to as their mother or father.
GoFundMe told the Washington Post it was giving all donors two weeks — until next Monday — to cancel their donations and ask for refunds, something that has clearly been happening.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the GoFundMe’s total was down to $166,391, which means more than $67,000 had been refunded to donors.
But with less than a week left, even if more donors continue to take back their contributions, it would appear that Kelly is still on pace to eclipse the original amount for which she was asking.
The CNN reporter who originally interviewed Kelly said the young girls all called her “mom” but that their biological mother was angry at the implication.
“Shadia Hilo,” the girls’ biological mother who showed their birth certificates for confirmation, “is understandably upset that someone else claimed to be the mother of three of her children, children she also cares for,” CNN reported Nick Watt told the Post.
Set to expire on Oct. 3, the new moratorium gives millions of renters a brief reprieve and more time for Congress to address the ongoing housing crisis. It applies to renters living in counties with elevated rates of COVID-19 infections, which is about 90% of the U.S. population.