Michael doesn't want to go home
PUBLISHED: 17:19 12 May 2014 | UPDATED: 17:27 12 May 2014
For many a £10,000 gift to start a new life from a bunch of strangers would be a "dream come true" - but one homeless Dalston man thought otherwise.
Jenny Baker raised the staggering sum for a 64-year old man she knew only as “Michael” whom she met on a night out in Dalston, after her web crowd-funding campaign went viral in February.
During their meeting Michael told her he had come over to England from Jamaica with his mum for a better life, but when she passed away he found himself homeless and now what he wanted more than anything in the world was to return home.
Miss Baker was so touched by his story she promised him she would make it her “personal mission” to fly him back.
But last week on an internet post she admitted she had been “somewhat naïve”, and promised to return the money back by July to every single person who donated if Michael still maintains by then he does not want their help.
Despite working closely with homeless charity Thames Reach, Miss Baker has not been able to track Michael down since the end of February.
“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,” she said on an internet post.
“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.”
“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.
Miss Baker said the last few months have been fraught with “questions, stresses and pressures which I never imagined could even be a possibility”, and that the power of social media is “pretty scary”.
“My intention has never been to make Michael feel uncomfortable or force him into any kind of ‘limelight’ with all of this,” she said.
“It’s of course, amazing to have options but with these possibilities brings with it the scary reality that this money could end up causing Michael some problems too and that is something I honestly never considered, expected or intended when I set out on this quest and even when I watched that money going up.
“Jamaica, I have since heard, can be an exceptionally dangerous place for not only its current residents and visitors but even people returning to live there - for Michael to just go back with what is now a lot of money could have some serious repercussions for him.”
Miss Baker said she felt tired of defending her actions when she’s only ever tried to do a good thing.
“Whilst the majority of the public support for Michael has been overwhelmingly positive, I have also been sent some really awful things saying that this has all been a scam, that I have spent the money and one person even claiming that I have purposefully used Michael for my own personal gain to pose as some kind of philanthropist,” she said.
“I cannot stress enough that all of this is rubbish.
“I can honestly say this is the first thing I wake up thinking about every morning and the last thing I think about at night.”
A spokeswoman for Thames Reach praised Miss Baker however.
“We need more people like Jenny coming forward and showing such admirable determination to make a difference,” she said.
“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.
She continued: “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.”