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$36,000 not paid yet to struggling family who cared for stolen, abandoned dog

By Jenna Bree

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    LAYTON, Utah (KSTU) — Mariah Mills and her four kids took care of ‘Reo’ the Shih Tzu for days before he was safely returned to his owners.

“He was cute,” she said. “He’s adorable. We loved playing with him. It’s not that big of a deal.

She and her family have been unsheltered for the last two years, living in a trailer in desperate need of replacement.

“If we can get into the KOA, cool,” she said. “If we can get into another mobile home park, cool. Like, that’s what that’s all we want.”

When ‘Reo’ was found, the $2,500 reward went to the man who told police where to find the dog. The Nomad Alliance, the Salt Lake City nonprofit dedicated to ending homelessness, set up a GoFundMe, hoping community members might help out.

“All of a sudden, it didn’t become just about reward money for the dog, but let’s help his family get into a stable housing situation and get the kids off the street,” said Soren Simonsen, Volunteer and Board Member.

That fundraiser was originally started to raise the $2,500 dollars in reward money the Mills family never got, but once community members saw their story, it blew up, and neither the Nomad Alliance nor the Mills ever could’ve imagined more than $36,000 being raised.

“We’ve already started purchasing auto parts for their vehicle so that it can safely tow the trailer and get it where it needs to go,” said Simonsen. “We’ve been diligently reaching out to places where they can camp, safe legal campsites that have RV hookups and things like that.”

However, Mills claims the Nomad Alliance is withholding the money. A woman who used to be involved with the nonprofit sent an email to Utah’s Office of Homeless Services, a formal complaint that they are now looking into.

She wrote in part that the Nomad Alliance is “making false accusations and demeaning the Mills family,” “This “Non-profit” has traumatized 4 little children,” “This family is a victim of abuse by a non-profit” and “Nomad Alliance is not being realistic with the GoFundMe funds.”

“I want to be left alone,” said Mills. “I just want the trailer that was promised, because it’s bigger and it’s newer than what I have, and I want to be left alone.”

The Nomad Alliance fundraiser goal was clear, and the donors want a permanent housing solution for the Mills, said Kseniya Kniazeva, Executive Director.

“They were very clear that they did not want any cash to be given to the parents, and that this was specifically to house the children,” she said.

These allegations are heartbreaking, said Kniazeva. The nonprofit has not directly dispersed the funds because they are ensuring the couple, who have a history of drug use, cannot use the money for any nefarious activity, she explained, and they are trying to enter an agreement with them, but they are not complying.

“We as the Nomad Alliance believe in solving homelessness,” she said. “We believe in housing people; we do not enable and we do not gift money for people to use however they may.”

If Mills is not willing to comply with an agreement, the Nomad Alliance will return all of the money back to each donor.

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