YouCaring page for homeless UC Berkeley student raises more than $75K

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After living in a trailer with his family for about four to five months, campus senior Ismael Chamu was evicted from his Hayward home Tuesday.

Chamu, whose story was reported by the Los Angeles Times on Sunday, has struggled with his family to make ends meet in recent months. After the article was published, a YouCaring page called “Help Ish’s Family Find a Home” was created with a $75,000 goal to raise money to buy food, secure housing and obtain school supplies for his family.

The page has been shared more than 3,000 times on social media and has received $77,765 as of press time.

According to a Facebook update posted on Chamu’s page Monday night, his family has secured temporary housing for two weeks with the help of Chamu’s friend, Jonathan Recinos, and Chamu’s partner, Julie Kim.

“With the enormous support from the community we are taking the right steps towards a stable living,” Chamu wrote in the Facebook post. “This is the power of the community and the hearts of people. This is not for me, this is for my family. My dream lies with them.”

Aside from majoring in sociology and being a leader in clubs such as the Pre-Law Coalition for Social Justice and United Children of Immigrants, Chamu also helps support his two sisters, younger brother and parents, according to the YouCaring page.

Chamu and his family lost their previous home about four to five months ago after his father became sick and the family fell behind on rent, according to Recinos. Since then, the family has lived in a trailer in poor conditions in Hayward, Recinos said.

In June 2017, Chamu was arrested by Berkeley police for alleged possession of a switchblade knife. Chamu alleged he was racially profiled and unlawfully detained. In July 2017, he was arrested in connection with vandalism that appeared on the southern side of campus.

Recinos connected Chamu’s story to the larger Bay Area housing crisis.

“If there was more affordable housing, this family wouldn’t have to live where they live now,” Recinos said. “Also, they wouldn’t have to worry about what they need to eat tomorrow morning. The people who need these things the most sometimes fall through the cracks.”

Recinos, who has been friends with Chamu since their freshman year at UC Berkeley, said he believed that the coverage from the LA Times would provide an opportunity to help Chamu financially.

“The money that will be raised can help the family of six find stability,” Recinos said. “The kids can take the classes they need to take and get the food they need. The worry should be, ‘What college can I go to?’ not ‘What food can I eat tomorrow?’ They should be focusing on school and getting good grades.”

Chamu’s Facebook post reported that a family opened its doors to his family for two weeks and will provide food and showers. They will now start to focus on finding permanent stable housing, enrolling his sisters in school, receiving medical care, finding employment for his father and fixing transportation problems, according to the post.

“Love and Peace to everyone for helping my family, this is the beginning of much greatness to come !!” Chamu said in his Facebook post.

Mary Kelly Ford covers academics and administration. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @MaryKellyFord1.