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Struggling Renters Turn To GoFundMe To Avoid Evictions


For Michelle and Ken Lau, a married couple living in Las Vegas, Nevada, with their two young children, relying on the kindness of strangers on GoFundMe to raise enough money to avoid eviction was really a last resort.

They never imagined they’d find themselves in a situation where they could lose their home. While Michelle has long been struggling with chronic health issues that have made working difficult—if not impossible—for her at times, Ken has always worked to meet the family’s financial needs since the two got married in 2020.

That was until the couple both fell ill with COVID-19 in November 2021 and required hospitalization.

“It was several months of being sick, and then Ken couldn’t go back to work. That’s when we started falling behind with rent,” Michelle told Newsweek. “At first it was OK, our landlord was amazing,” she said. “Everyone was in panic over COVID-19, we said, ‘It’s OK, we’ll see what happens.’ But [the debt] just kept building, we weren’t able to catch up.”

Struggling Renters Turn GoFundMe Avoid Evictions
GoFundMe has observed a 40 percent increase in eviction fundraisers on its platform compared to pre-pandemic levels, as struggling renters seek help from strangers.

Photo-illustration by Newsweek

In late 2023, Ken’s work in commercial HVAC [Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning] started slowing down. In February, he was laid off.

Now, he’s been unemployed for several months, and the family’s landlord’s has had to take action. “She wanted the best for our family, she was being really patient and trying to waive late fees for us,” Michelle said. “But we’re in a situation where we can try and juggle our bills, but that back rent balance never goes away. It’s just kept climbing, and it’s been a really stressful few years,” she added.

“You keep thinking that you’re finally getting your head above water, and then something else happens. It can be that you have a tire go out or, for example, our daughter needed oral surgery. We’ve just been behind on everything.”

The Laus’ landlord asked Michelle and Ken to either pay off their back rent balance of $10,000 by June 30 or face eviction on July 1. The couple, scrambling for options, turned to raising money on GoFundMe.

A Spike in the Numbers of Desperate Americans Turning to Fundraising

The Laus are far from the only ones who have turned to the American for-profit crowdfunding platform to avoid being kicked out of their homes.

Lau Family
Michelle and Ken Lau with their two young children. The family is trying to raise a total of $10,000 on GoFundMe to avoid eviction.

Michelle Lau

GoFundMe told Newsweek that it has seen a 40 percent increase in eviction fundraisers this year compared to pre-pandemic levels. Between March and April alone, the platform saw a 20 percent uptick in eviction fundraisers, including stories from entire mobile home parks facing evictions.

Despite the fact that inflation has lowered significantly from its 9.1 percent peak in June 2022, many Americans are still struggling to keep up with the cost of living. Some have never recovered from the pandemic.

Meanwhile, the cost of housing has increased—mortgage rates are still hovering around the 7 percent mark, home prices remain relatively high despite growing inventory, and home insurance premiums are climbing in the country’s most vulnerable states.

The median sale price of a home in the U.S., as of May, was $438,483, up 4.8 percent compared to a year earlier, according to Redfin data. The median asking rent in the same month was up 0.8 percent year-over-year, at $1,653.

According to an April survey from Redfin, half of U.S. homeowners and renters (49.9 percent) sometimes, regularly or greatly struggle to afford their housing payments. The survey found that 17.9 percent of people struggling borrowed money from friends or family, and 17.6 percent used part of their retirement savings. Over one in seven (15.6 percent) delayed or skipped medical treatments.

“GoFundMe really is a mirror of social trends. And we often see that when there are patterns or reports of people feeling economic pressure, there are signals of that same phenomena reflected on GoFundMe,” Margaret Richardson, chief corporate affairs officer at GoFundMe, told Newsweek.

“We know that people are feeling the real effects of our nation’s housing crisis,” she said. For Richardson, “that precarious experience of feeling on the edge of economic security” is also a part of what is contributing to the rise in eviction fundraisers on the platform.

While not everyone is successful in their fundraisers, many find the help they need, or at least part of it.

The Laus were able to pay $5,000 to their landlord, which has given them an extension to raise the other $5,000. “The amount of weight that has been lifted off our shoulders, with our balance being smaller, is amazing,” Michelle said.

“We feel already like we’ve achieved a miracle,” Michelle added. “We were really hesitant to put that out, and it was a last resort, but we finally did it. And we kind of thought just some of our friends and family would see it, which they did.” But a lot more people also send donations to the family.

“We know that nobody else has to help us. We’ve been wanting to take responsibility for our own life, take care of our own children. We want to help other people. But in this situation, anybody that’s willing to spare, you know, give us a dollar, is amazing.”

Michelle knows that her family is not the only one struggling, but she said that the stigma around struggling financially made it challenging, especially for Ken, to accept that they haven’t done anything wrong.

“Getting sick was not our fault. We haven’t done anything wrong,” she said. “We’re good people with good values and we have good hearts. And sometimes difficult things just happen.”

Are you facing eviction and have you turned to GoFundMe to raising funds to avoid it? Get in touch with me at g.carbonaro@newsweek.com to share your experience.