Student Sanai Graden explains why she has returned $400K raised for homeless man to donors 

Dollita Okine May 09, 2024
Sanai Graden, who went viral earlier this year for raising nearly half a million dollars for a homeless guy in D.C., has come forward to explain why the money has been returned. Photo Credit: TikTok

Sanai Graden, who went viral earlier this year for raising nearly half a million dollars for a homeless man in D.C., has come forward to explain why the money has been refunded.

After meeting Alonzo Douglas Hebron on the streets of downtown Washington, D.C. in January and helping him pay for his hotel room and buy medication, Graden posted on TikTok recently that she had lost contact with him.

After receiving positive feedback on social media in January, she decided to create a GoFundMe for Hebron, which successfully raised over $400,000 and attracted significant media attention.

Even after Hebron’s violent criminal past—which included an attack on another homeless woman—came to light, the 21-year-old college student stated that she was still dedicated to supporting him.

Graden has now shared that she has found it challenging to communicate with Hebron. She added that he started acting evasively, spent all of the food gift cards Graden gave him, and misplaced the cell phone she had bought him.

She clarified in a TikTok, “I really did try to help him. I tried to transform his whole life. But sometimes when you want something for somebody, they may not want that for themselves.” Thus, she said she decided to return the money to her donors. 

Graden further stated that meeting Hebron in Logan Circle completely changed her life as a California college student interning in Washington, D.C. “I was a nobody. My life forever changed when I went on that walk to the grocery store, and I was stopped for tea.”

However, Graden noted that “the situation went from being positive to negative real quick” while GoFundMe started receiving donations from everywhere.

It became more difficult to get in touch with Hebron, and the homeless man did not follow through on her advice to obtain identification. “Every time I asked about the ID, there was an excuse,” she indicated.

Graden said Hebron eventually stopped talking to her. She said she became depressed and stopped focusing on her internship. “All I wanted was to get him housing, get him medical care. There’s only so much I can do. I cannot force him to do certain things. At the end of the day, he’s grown.”

In a statement, GoFundMe confirmed that at the “request of the organizer, donors have been refunded” for Graden’s original fundraiser.

The organization added that “Since the fundraiser’s launch, GoFundMe remained fully committed to helping deliver the funds raised to Mr. Hebron, just as the donors intended. However, without the cooperation of the organizer or the beneficiary, delivering these funds to Mr. Hebron has not been possible.”

Graden and her attorney did not respond to questions posed by The Washington Post, including what Graden intended to do with the more than $25,000 donated in a second GoFundMe for the college student’s expenses. Hebron could also not be reached.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: May 9, 2024


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