Tech

San Franciscans started a legal fight to stop a homeless shelter, but now big tech billionaires are pouring money in to support it

Key Points
  • Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey both support a homeless Navigation Center in San Francisco that has inspired two warring GoFundMe pages.
  • The two had previously been on opposite sides in a debate over a tax on big businesses to fight San Francisco's homelessness problem.
  • The CEOs of GitHub and Twilio also appear to have donated to the GoFundMe page supporting the center.
Marc Benioff and Jack Dorsey
CNBC; Getty Images

A fundraising battle has two previously opposing tech CEOs fighting on the same side.

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey both appear to have donated to a GoFundMe page supporting a proposed Navigation Center. The center would open on a parking lot owned by the Port of San Francisco and add 200 beds for the local homeless population in addition to providing housing and health services, according to CBS' Bay Area affiliate.

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Benioff and Dorsey butted heads on a proposal last year aimed at combating San Francisco's homelessness problem. Benioff aggressively supported Proposition C, widely known as a "homelessness tax" on businesses with more than $50 million in annual revenue. The proposition, which will subject Benioff's own business to increased taxes, passed in November despite intense opposition from other tech leaders. Dorsey was among the most vocal critics of the tax, saying it would unfairly affect financial services companies like his own, Square.

But now, the two are on the same side in supporting the new Navigation Center. They are joined by other tech leaders, including GitHub CEO Nat Friedman and Twilio CEO Jeff Lawson, who each appear to have donated $10,000 on the GoFundMe page "SAFER Embarcadero for ALL." GoFundMe even donated $5,000 to the initiative.

A spokesperson for Salesforce pointed to Benioff's tweet Friday, explaining his support for the initiative.

"Homelessness is our number [one] crisis and it requires all of our attention and resources," he wrote.

Lawson also tweeted his support for the campaign, saying, "This isn't about the money, it's about the soul of our city, fighting for our most vulnerable citizens." A spokesperson confirmed his donation.

In a statement, a GoFundMe spokesperson said its donation was part of its "Gives Back" program, where employees nominate campaigns to which they want the company to donate.

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"GoFundMe employees choose to nominate worthy causes throughout the year and we believe this campaign to support the Coalition is an important effort," the spokesperson wrote.

The fundraiser was built in response to another GoFundMe page called "Safe Embarcadero for All," which opposes the homeless shelter, arguing the plans "put expediency over safety." As of Monday morning, the page supporting the homelessness center raised about $144,000, while the page opposing the center raised about $80,000.

According to the city's 2017 count of the homeless population in a single night, there were about 7,000 people on the streets or in shelters.

Representatives from Twitter and GitHub did not immediately respond to CNBC's requests for comment or confirmation of the donations.

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