Miracle Messages is an award-winning nonprofit on a mission to end relational poverty on the streets. Their reunion service and virtual buddy system reconnect our homeless neighbours with their loved ones… and us as a whole society.
Everyone is someone’s somebody
Can you imagine… right now, if you had a brother… or a Mom or a son… who’s homeless… and you don’t know where they are? That would be absolutely terrifying.
“Everyone is someone’s somebody.” That’s the motto of Miracle Messages, a San Francisco Bay Area nonprofit dedicated to reuniting families nationwide with long-lost loved ones living on the streets. The concept is simple: Anyone looking for a family member can call into the hotline and leave a message. Miracle Messages takes it from there.
Anyone looking for a family member can call into the hotline and leave a message
Kevin Adler, founder and director of Miracle Messages, got the idea after passing homeless people on his way to work every day on Market Street in San Francisco. Adler grew up with a beloved uncle who was sometimes homeless and frequently absent from the family.
In December 2014, filled with memories of his Uncle Marc, Kevin Adler took a walk down Market Street and asked every person he met living on the streets if they’d like to record a holiday message for a long lost loved one. That’s how he met Jeffrey, who had not seen his family in 22 years and was the first person he helped reunite.
Six years, a number of viral videos, and hundreds of reunions later – an astonishing 40% of which have lead to stable housing or living with family – and Kevin is still on that journey, accompanied by Jessica Day (Director of Programs) and thousands of volunteers, advisors, and friends who have become Miracle Messages.
“Everyone is someone’s somebody.”
That’s the motto of the San Francisco Bay Area nonprofit dedicated to reuniting families nationwide with long-lost loved ones living on the streets. The concept is simple: Anyone looking for a family member can call into the hotline and leave a message. Miracle Messages takes it from there.
Miracle Messages has crowd-sourced the detective process and the message delivery process
After he helped facilitate one reunion in particular, he saw the healing power of reconnection. He quit his job immediately and started Miracle Messages. The nonprofit now has a network of more than 1,000 “Miracle Messengers” who work to find and deliver messages, and they have celebrated more than 300 reunions and counting.
“It’s a chicken-and-the-egg kind of thing,” Kevin Adler told StreetRoots’ Helen Hill. “People don’t think to either ask or offer this service because they don’t know what to do if the person says, ‘Yes, I want to reconnect with my family.’ Where do you even start?”
Miracle Messages has, as Adler described it, crowd-sourced the detective process and the message delivery process.
“We can find people like nobody’s business,” he said. “We have a team of detectives, trained volunteers and private investigators who have been in the business for 30 years and more. We’ve delivered messages to remote villages in Kenya. We had a man who had been sold into slavery who escaped and was reunited with his family after 50 years” at their farm in the mountains of Zacatecas, Mexico.
All they need to function even more efficiently is more messages, Adler said. “We want to get more people to record messages.”
Adler estimated that of the more than 300 reunions, 15% “have led straightaway to stable housing or living with family again; 80% have had a positive outcome in terms of mental, physical and social health such as feeling less lonely, suicidal. The average age of our clients is 45 to 50 years old. The average time disconnected with family is 15 years.
We are working with a very hard-to-reach, generally service-resistant, older subset of the homeless population that has been on the streets for many years. And this is a service that seems to reach them,” he said.
Miracle Messages: a humane way to help end homelessness
Miracle Messages are short video messages from homeless individuals to their long-lost loved ones, recorded and delivered by volunteers like you.
Miracle Messages has reunited over 325 people experiencing homelessness with their loved ones, with an average time separated of 15 years.
80% of delivered messages have been positively received, and dozens of reunions have resulted in getting an individual off-the-streets, all at a fraction of the cost of other interventions.
Reunion service. The reunion service is simple, effective, and built for scale: a person isolated by homelessness records a short video, audio, or text message to a family member or friend, using the 1-800-MISS-YOU hotline, mobile app, or referral form, and often with the help of a local referral partner, volunteer, or formerly homeless ambassador.
Then, a global network of volunteer "digital detectives"* attempt to locate the loved one, deliver the message, & facilitate a reunion.
*Every Wednesday at 5:30pm PT for the past 18 months, a network of volunteer “digital detectives” join a group call to work on cases, learn best practices, share updates, and mentor newcomers.
Find Them is a system to help families find their missing homeless relatives. Although these “needle-in-a-haystack” reunions are very challenging, Miracle Messages have some incredible early successes to build on. Learn more.
Miracle Friends, a first-of-its-kind virtual buddy system during COVID-19 (and afterwards) that matches volunteers with individuals experiencing homelessness for 5-10 minute daily phone calls and texts, to offer basic companionship and support.
Currently, Miracle Friends is supporting individuals being moved into hotels during the pandemic and formerly homeless senior citizens, in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond. Learn more.
“We offer a humane way to help end homelessness: reunite families, strengthen local social supports, shatter stigmas, and empower people everywhere to get involved.”
We believe that EVERYONE IS SOMEONE’S SOMEBODY. We want to inspire people everywhere to embrace their homeless neighbors not as problems to be solved, but as people to be loved. We envision a world where everyone is nurtured by a social support system and sense of belonging – a social home – whether or not they currently have access to stable physical housing. Click to find out more about MiracleMessages, our work, to get involved, or to donate.