Donors to once-homeless veteran’s family seek their money back, saying they were misled
EVERETT — The community rallied around a disabled veteran and his homeless family with cash donations and home supplies, but then many of the contributors asked for their money back.
“I am 40 years old. I spent 15 years and four tours in Iraq. If I had money given to me, why would I have another grown adult tell me how to spend it?” asked disabled vet Eric Wells, alluding to those donors who were upset at how the family was spending the money.
Wells, his wife, Nicole, and their three children were homeless and living on the streets of Everett a few weeks ago. Their belongings were in a shopping cart. A woman driving by snapped a photo of them and posted it on the Snohomich County Crime and Community Facebook page.
Wells said he lost his job a few years ago and was evicted from his home after he couldn’t pay the rent. He hasn’t been able to find work in years and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and knee and back problems.
When their plight received media attention, the community rallied around them. A gofundme.com page was set up and donations poured in.
Within 24 hours after a Q13 FOX News story aired about the family, the Wells family moved into an apartment and the veteran got a job with a towing company.
Dozens of people wanted to help, including Daniel Roehl
“All we wanted to do is get the three kids off the street,” he said. “It was to make sure the kids had a place to live, a stable place to live, for long term.”
Some of those who donated say the want refunds now, after learning the Wells planned to use the money to pay for Nicole’s U.S. visa (she’s a German citizen) rather than for housing costs.
“The funding is supposed to go to us for whatever we want to use it for, for whatever we want household-wise, and it was never the case that it was supposed to be for rent purposes only,” Nicole said.
Roehl insists the only intention for the donations was to keep the family safe. "All these people got involved in their lives to make their lives better" and get them into a home, he said.
But, he added, "When they (the Wells) requested the money go toward her being a U.S. citizen, that's not why we did it. That would be a separate issue."
The Wells family said they're getting by, donations or not.
It's believed donations from the gofundme account were returned as of Wednesday night.
To see our earlier story, click here.