Have you heard about this one? Johnny Bobbitt is a homeless man who was living under a bridge in Philadelphia. One night last fall, a woman named Kate McClure was running out of gas and Bobbitt saw her and used his last $20 to buy her gas. She set up a GoFundMe page in which she described Bobbitt’s act of kindness:
Driving into Philly one night, I made the mistake of thinking that I would be able to make it all the way down I- 95 with my gas light on. Needless to say, I was wrong. I never ran out of gas before, and my heart was beating out of my chest. I pulled over as far as I could, and got out of the car to head to the nearest gas station.
That’s when I met Johnny. Johnny sits on the side of the road every day, holding a sign. He saw me pull over and knew something was wrong. He told me to get back in the car and lock the doors. A few minutes later, he comes back with a red gas can. Using his last 20 dollars to make sure I could get home safe.
Johnny did not ask me for a dollar, and I couldn’t repay him at that moment because I didn’t have any cash, but I have been stopping by his spot for the past few weeks. I repaid him for the gas, gave him a jacket, gloves, a hat, and warm socks, and I give him a few dollars every time I see him.
The GoFundMe page was initially set up to try to raise $10,000 for Johnny but the story went viral and people donated over $400,000. At the time, Bobbitt had no bank account and no ID (or any documents to get one) so McClure and her boyfriend Mark D’Amico began handling the money for him.
Bobbitt didn’t want a permanent home but instead decided he wanted a camper. He picked one out and it was purchased for him. He also bought a laptop, a television and, because he had no place to go (and no documents) he was living on property owned by D’Amico and McClure.
But by last week the story took a turn. Bobbitt told the Philly Inquirer he was back living on the street and that the couple refused to hand over the money raised for him:
The promise of a home gave way to a camper that Bobbitt lived in until June on land McClure’s family owns in rural Florence Township, Burlington County, near the small house the couple share. He never got his “dream” pickup, a 1999 Ford Ranger, and the used SUV he was given instead broke down. The couple said they put the two vehicles in McClure’s name so Bobbitt couldn’t sell them, but both vehicles have since been sold.
Through it all, Bobbitt admits, the pull of drugs was strong, dooming two stints in rehab and sending him back to the streets, where he now spends his days scrambling for money and drugs.
Bobbitt wonders how McClure, a receptionist for the New Jersey Department of Transportation, paid for the new BMW she drives and for vacations to California, Florida, and Las Vegas, as well as a helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon. He also questions how much D’Amico, a carpenter, spent gambling.
Yesterday, lawyers working pro bono for Bobbitt filed a lawsuit against the couple:
Documents filed in Superior Court in Mount Holly with the lawsuit seeking an injunction and monetary relief contend the couple committed fraud and conspiracy by taking for their personal use a “substantial portions of the money raised,” instead of putting the funds toward getting Bobbitt off the streets, as the GoFundMe page stated. The request for an injunction also alleges that D’Amico and McClure deposited the money into personal accounts, and denied Bobbitt access to the donations…
McClure and D’Amico “conspired to utilize [Bobbitt’s] money to enjoy a lifestyle that they could not afford. Defendants admitted to commingling the funds raised for [Bobbitt] in their own personal accounts and have denied [Bobbitt] access to the account,” according to the court filing.
For their part, D’Amico and McClure don’t deny refusing to give Bobbitt the remainder of his money. They appeared on Megyn Kelly’s show this week (see below) and said they put $25,000 in an account set up for Bobbitt near Christmas. He spent all of it on drugs in less than two weeks. After that, they decided to hold back the cash until he committed to some sort of treatment for his addiction. D’Amico told the Philly Inquirer that giving Bobbitt all the money would be like “giving him a loaded gun.”
That sounds like common sense to me. Giving cash to someone with a serious drug habit is like pouring fuel on a fire. But at least one opinion writer for the Inquirer has argued that it’s wrong to refuse to let poor people handle their own money:
The idea that poor people can’t, or shouldn’t, handle their own money — especially if it came from a benefactor — is on brand for America.
Every year, there is a discussion about restricting food stamps to only pay for healthy foods and requiring people who receive food stamps to pass drug tests. God forbid a poor person will enjoy a cold Coke — like millions of Americans every day — or that people who use drugs won’t go hungry…
Bobbitt is not only poor, he is also a person in addiction. What if he used the money that people donated to buy drugs?
Short answer: That’s none of your business. People spend money in ways that some might disapprove of all the time.
This is spectacularly wrong. People who donated to the GoFundMe account for Bobbitt did so in order to get him off the street, not to allow him to burn through thousands of dollars buying drugs. Had that been the thrust of the GoFundMe page, there wouldn’t be any money to worry about. So, in this case it certainly is the business of the people who donated that money. It’s also the business of the couple who set up the page for the same reason— to help someone get off the street.
The sad part of this story is that I think Bobbitt is going to end up back on the street no matter how much money he is given. He is not in a fit state of mind to handle the money he has until he decides to deal with his real problem, which is drug addiction. And that really is a shame because it seems there’s a pretty decent man under there somewhere.
I do think the couple that helped Bobbitt needs to account for all of the money and should relinquish control of it to a 3rd party ASAP. But giving it to a drug addict who is still refusing to go to rehab is a truly terrible idea, one likely to result in Bobbitt’s death. Again, I don’t think any of the donors to his fund wanted that to happen.
Here’s the interview on Megyn Kelly’s show.