1. In February, Jenny Baker started a campaign to raise £800 to send Michael, a homeless man she met on a night out, back to his home country of Jamaica.
Baker reached her target in less than a day and within five days had raised £10,215 from donors around the world as the #getmichaelhome campaign went viral.
She tracked Michael down to tell him about the generosity being shown towards him, and said he was “grateful, if not totally in shock”.
But now she admits that Michael might not want to go home and hasn’t been seen since February. She says she will refund the money if Michael can’t be reached or if he still refuses any help, but she’s waiting until July to make a final decision.
2. In an update on her funding page she wrote:
I realise now that it may have been somewhat naïve but I genuinely thought as I am sure many of you did too, that when money was raised that the hard work was done and the ‘simple’ matter of booking a flight home for Michael should take no time at all.
In my last post I explained how I quickly realised this was not going to be the case but rarely did I consider the possibility that I might not be able to help Michael at all….
It appears that Michael may have changed his mind about not just returning to Jamaica but also about having me or any organisations help him any further.
One of the main reasons I have decided not mention this until now is because I have wanted to respect Michael’s decision (and this is HIS decision) and also not open the door for people to start trying to ‘hunt him down’ for some kind of explanation as to why he doesn’t want the donations that people have so kindly gifted.
I realise this is potentially something that the likes of both you and I might find difficult to understand but the last thing I have wanted to do is to make him feel like he can’t carry on the life he has chosen without being hassled about it. I am so sad that this has happened and I almost feel guilty about it sometimes but there is honestly nothing more I can do in the current situation.
So that’s the latest, I have no idea where Michael is and whether I will ever see him again. This is his choice and I have to totally respect that and I really hope that you will too.
3. As for what to do with the money, she says she’s not given up all hope.
I have thought long and hard about where to go from here. Do I donate the money? Do I refund people? Do I give people the option?
I am sure you’ve already come to your own conclusion about what you would want to happen and again I am not totally happy with what I have decided to do… but, to be brutally honest, I am rather tired of feeling as though I almost need to defend myself and my actions when all I have ever tried to do is a good thing …
I said to Michael when we met that I would get him home in a year. He knows the money is there for him but for whatever reason, he seemingly doesn’t want it right now. I feel like I want to give him a bit more time as it stands… He has my number… maybe he will get in touch?
If not, I have decided I will refund you all. It’s hard to know what to do for the best here but I would rather people got their money back than believe it has been used for any other purpose – you can always donate it to another worthy cause (please do)!! I will review the situation at the end of July and update you.
4. In a statement, homelessness charity Thames Reach praised her efforts to make a difference:
We need more people like Jenny coming forward and showing such admirable determination to make a difference.
I believe this has been somewhat of a learning curve for Jenny and those around her, that the situation on the streets can be more complex than the public realise and with all the best intentions.
Some individuals bed down and sleep rough and when contacts made are ready to take the next steps away from the streets.
Equally others who rough sleep occasionally, sofa surf or who even have accommodation, use the streets to beg to support a drug or drink habit and who are not ready to take on the often daunting transition away from their street lifestyle.