Humans of the Forty Acres staff posted a story on their Facebook page about homeless man Jose Estrada, known as “Kool-Aid,” at 5:30 p.m. on Sept. 27. Within an hour, the comments section began to explode.
“We were completely blindsided,” said Joshua Guenther, Humans of the Forty Acres photographer. “We interview people, and then transcribe what they say exactly, so we only had his personal testimony.”
Humans of the Forty Acres shares stories with pictures of people in the UT community, in a format that emulates internationally known Humans of New York. Comments on Estrada’s story ranged from students claiming they had peaceful interactions with him to some claiming he had verbally abused and grabbed them.
“Stuff like that is false,” Estrada said. “If I would have touched people inappropriately or approached them in a negative way, how come they didn’t call the police?”
Guenther, a computer science and journalism senior, said Humans of the Forty Acres had no knowledge of Estrada’s interactions on Guadalupe Street when they decided to post his story of homelessness for the past 11 years and problems with alcohol, jail and diabetes.
By 8:30 p.m. on the night of the post, Guenther said students were already requesting to remove the GoFundMe link, which was posted with his testimony, and others requested removing the post altogether. Guenther said the team decided to keep the post but remove the link.
Estrada said people thought he would use the money poorly, but said he planned to use it for an apartment down payment and that he is not a violent person.
UT alumna Bushra Rahman was one commenter who said Estrada made a sexual comment to her after she offered him food in the spring of 2013.
“The next couple times that I would walk by, it would be the same thing,” Rahman said. “He would start whistling or making noises and catcalling.”
Rahman said she didn’t report the incidents out of sympathy for his situation and the fact that he hadn’t approached her.
Humans of the Forty Acres has helped students with GoFundMe links in the past for good reasons, Guenther said, but is now straying away from donations after Estrada.
“I think we were just sort of captivated by how (donations) had the power to help people,” Guenther said. “We thought we could help this individual, but then not knowing the full story really sort of backfired on us.”
This story has been updated to reflect the correct spelling of Joshua Guenther's name.