After facing intense criticism, Orlando’s official fund for victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting is changing course.
The OneOrlando Fund, established by Mayor Buddy Dyer, initially set out to give the money raised to a series of nonprofits that support LGBT groups, community building and other initiatives. Realizing how imminent the needs of survivors’ and family members are, the group announced on Friday that it would give the entirety of the $7 million raised straight to those affected by the massacre.
The money will help survivors pay for such basics as rent and groceries, the New York Times reported.
The June 12 shooting at a popular gay nightclub in Orlando left 49 people dead and 53 injured.
“We are working on transitioning the fund in a way that allows it to provide funding directly to victims,” Cassandra Lafser, press secretary, told The Huffington Post. The group will continue to publicize how it's channeling the funds as those decisions are made, Lafser added.
The OneOrlando Fund’s announcement comes on the heels of an outcry from fundraising experts and those affected by other mass shootings.
A group of 100 people who were impacted by some of the worst shootings in U.S. history issued a statement disparaging the OneOrlando Fund and calling on it to direct the money to victims in need.
To underscore the urgency of the issue, the group pointed to other similar funds established in the wake of massacres, which they say failed to address the immediate needs of victims and survivors.
“The history of community-based funds in this country is a shameful one,” the letter read. “Let these families of the deceased and the injured heal the way only they know how. Give them the funds that Americans and the world intended for them. They will need it to survive.”
The group encouraged donors to give to a GoFundMe campaign set up by Equality Florida, an LGBT rights group, and a fund set up by the National Compassion Fund. Both groups are giving 100 percent of donations to the injured and relatives of the deceased.
Nelba Marquez-Greene, whose 6-year-old daughter was killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, signed the letter and wrote a blog for HuffPost admonishing donors to be wary before donating to funds for victims.
“Millions were poured in to Sandy Hook. Very little actually reached us. And victims of gun violence will have a lifetime of need,” Marquez-Greene wrote. “Before you give — ask where your dollars will go. Specify that you want it to go to victim families.”
After the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, which claimed the lives of 20 children and six adults, a fund set up with the help of United Way raised $11.4 million in donations. Nearly a year later, an advisory board decided that $7.7 million would be set aside for the victims, Reuters reported.
“You really have to ask the foundation board why it decided not to distribute all the donated funds to the families,” Kenneth Feinberg, who advised the distribution committee and oversaw the victims compensation fund after 9/11, told Reuters.
The OneOrlando Fund is also consulting with Feinberg as the city moves forward with the fund, according to the latest press release.
“We recognize there are victims in need of support now, and we ask for your patience as we ensure we are able to assist these victims in an open, transparent and equitable manner,” Dyer said in a statement. “In the coming days and weeks we will share more with you on this process and how the community will have a voice.”