Editorial: Mt. Graham Safe House warns of ‘Facebook Hustle’

Jon Johnson File Photo/Gila Herald

Column By Jeanette Aston – MGSH Director

SAFFORD – The Mt. Graham Safe House (MGSH) provided more than 22,000 services to victims of domestic or sexual violence last year. That sounds like a lot, and it is, but it doesn’t always feel like enough to those we serve.

We learned about something this past December called the “Facebook Hustle.” This is when a person goes to one or many Facebook groups and puts up a post asking for help. They may be asking for things or money or a place to stay, it can be anything. Then often 20 or 30 people will respond to that one person all bringing them the thing that they asked for. What happens then? This person now has 30 of something they only wanted one? The answer to that is, who knows?  The person may throw the other items away, give them away or sell them.

At the end of 2018, we had many people coming to our door bringing items to one victim or another.  We, of course, could not confirm or deny if that person was here, but we accepted the items in case they were. This happened for quite a few different people. That’s when we learned about the “Facebook Hustle.”

This got me thinking, is it wrong for a person to do this? Of course, it is never wrong to ask for help when you need it. But is it wrong to ask for help when you really already do have what you need and you would just like a different version of that help or more of it? It really might be. It might be an abuse of a system. All of the people providing the help think that they are the only ones helping. All of the people who see the post think MGSH isn’t helping victims when the person asking says they are here. Items that were given to that one person in abundance could have helped many different people.

I don’t really have a solution to this. I would just like everyone to be aware that the “Facebook Hustle” exists. Sometimes what seems like a genuine request for assistance may be a severe manipulation of the readers of a post. While MGSH cannot confirm or deny anything about a particular person when we are called, we will not put a person out on the streets, we help them find another place to go. Keep in mind we can’t make them go anywhere. We do provide clothing and in fact, work with the Graham County Rehabilitation Center to ensure that victims have access to their entire stock of clothing. There is never a charge to the victim. If a person is staying with us their basic needs are being met. If a client does have a need that perhaps we can’t provide, MGSH will always put a request out on our Facebook page for the victim anonymously. In fact, we will then share that post in local groups to try to get the item for the victim. So, there is one way to know if you are being Facebook hustled, at least when it comes to victims working with MGSH, look on our page to see if the need is real. Thanks to everyone who supports our program, we couldn’t do this work without you.