Gray Area raised more than $1 million for Ghost Ship, hopes to wrap distribution soon

Photo by Wayne Hsieh via Flickr.

Having raised a total of $1,295,007 from some 12,000 donors, the Gray Area on Friday ended its fundraiser for victims of the Ghost Ship warehouse and arts space fire that struck in Oakland in December of last year. The organization intends to have all the money disbursed by the end of the month, according to a press release.

Per its published timeline, Gray Area has already disbursed $1,030,775 of what it raised. To protect recipients’ privacy, the foundation will not publish any specific amounts disbursed. The allocations determined by categories, defined by the recipient’s relationship to the incident, with a set amount given for each category. More details will be released when all the funds have been distributed, Gray Area says.

Getting the money raised out to those who needed it turned out to be a complicated process. Even as money was pouring in, it took a month after the fire for the organization to get correct information about all of the victims.

“Critical information, such as the verified identities of the deceased individuals and displaced residents, was withheld by the City of Oakland, delaying Gray Area’s formal plans over a month,” the organization wrote in its release. “The Red Cross, which is accustomed to such work, began disbursements of the Oakland A’s relief fund on December 12, 2016, but key documents were not made available to Gray Area until January 2, a full 30 days after the fire.”

Gray Area ended up forming a committee of both pro-bono and some paid staff to handle the fund and distributing the money. The committee fielded hundreds of requests and after filtering out fraudulent requests, the organization is now set to distribute donations to some 390 recipients.

Nearly 80 percent of applicants overall are people who are unlikely to be recognized by traditional aid organizations as victims, Gray Area says. Some of them are part of what the nonprofit calls a victim’s “family tree,” which includes family, significant others, and roommates not traditionally considered “next of kin.” Gray Area is also disbursing some money to survivors of the fire who didn’t live at the warehouse and were uninjured but are still suffering in the aftermath, as well as business partners of victims.

Next, the foundation will turn its attention to fundraising for “Resiliency.” Though the original fundraiser has ended, Gray Area is now accepting donations that will go toward rebuilding and prevention efforts – like supporting community efforts and local legislation to create and maintain safe artist spaces. More details on those efforts will be released in summer of this year.