Group uses tech to reconnect homeless residents with friends, family

For Kevin Adler, founder of San Francisco-based Miracle Messages, reconnecting houseless neighbors with loved ones is personal.

"For me, it was this connection with my uncle Mark and feeling that I was tired of walking by others without a home and looking the other way," Adler told Hoodline via telephone. "These are people just like my uncle who are living and dying on the streets and I don't even know their stories."

Adler said that while his uncle was an integral part of his formative years and "the most family-oriented member of my extended family," he also suffered from schizophrenia, living on and off the streets for nearly thirty years.

Miracle Messages works to reunite those experiencing houselessness with family and friends through a network of nationwide volunteers who share video messages via social media. Clients connect with caseworkers and digital investigators to assist in the search process.

Kevin Adler with Rick, who recorded a video message to his brother. | Photo: Miracle Messages/Facebook

Previously, while working on a project that offered homeless residents cameras to record personal messages, Adler said he learned that a lack of relationships and severed connections to loved ones is one of the biggest barriers to getting off the streets.

"In one clip, I heard someone say that they never realized they were homeless until they lost their friends and family," he said.

"One out of every two of us is a paycheck away from not being able to pay the rent," said Adler. The difference between a person on the street and on the periphery "is the family and the support systems."

In December 2014, Adler took a camera to Market Street and asked people if they wanted to record a message to someone they'd lost touch with. "I met Jeffrey, who hadn't talked to his family in twelve years," said Adler. "Within an hour, he was reconnected to his loved ones."

Volunteers with Miracle Messages use a variety of tools to help houseless residents reconnect with their support systems, including YouTube videos, a 1-800-MISS-YOU telephone hotline, and access to more than a thousand digital detectives who help with the search process.

"Here we are at the center of the tech world where we are able to build our profiles and tell our stories," said Adler. "And those without can go weeks and months at a time without having any interaction with another."

So far, Miracle Messages has recorded 447 messages, delivered 220, and has reunited one hundred thirty-one people with loved ones. Twenty-five percent of the reunions have led to stable housing, Adler said.

To support its mission, Miracle Messages today launched a crowdfunding campaign with a goal of funding two hundred reunions by 2019.