What is Miracle Messages?

Miracle Messages is a volunteer-led nonprofit dedicated to reconnecting our homeless neighbors with their loved ones... and us. The process is simple: a person isolated by homelessness records a short video, audio, or text message to their loved ones, often with the help of a caseworker or volunteer. Then, our network of 1,100+ digital detectives attempt to locate the loved one and deliver the Miracle Message.

We offer a humane (and effective) way to help end homelessness: end relational poverty on our streets. To date, we have reunited 194 families (average time disconnected = 20 years) using our mobile app, online referral form, and national hotline, 1-800-MISS-YOU. 20% of reunions have led to housing and 80% have led to a positive outcome, all at a fraction of the cost of other interventions.

We believe that everyone is someone's somebody – and so do most families, as 90% of located loved ones choose to reconnect. Our work has been featured widely, including in the New York Times, NPR, on a billboard in Times Square, and NowThis (47M views). Founder Kevin F. Adler started Miracle Messages in honor of his uncle, who lived on-and-off the streets for 30 years. 


  • What is Miracle Messages?

  • How does Miracle Messages work?

  • How is Miracle Messages effective for clients?

  • How is Miracle Messages effective for partner sites?

  • How do we get started?


What is Miracle Messages?

Miracle Messages is a nationwide message delivery service that clears the way for diversion, problem-solving, and rapid rehousing by helping staff at partner sites (caseworkers, social workers, outreach workers, etc) address the massive digital literacy barriers, bureaucratic barriers, and emotional barriers that their homeless clients often face. This includes: helping clients find phone numbers, reaching out to loved ones via Facebook, navigating around HIPAA restrictions, and addressing the shame / fear that prevents them from reaching out.

Don’t send your clients to the public library! Send them to Miracle Messages, and expand your options for problem solving, diversion, and rapid rehousing!

How does Miracle Messages work?

Miracle Messages offers clients the opportunity to record and deliver a message to a loved one, even if the client doesn’t know how to reach them.

When a message is received, Miracle Messages’ digital detectives attempt to locate the loved one online and deliver the client’s message. Once a message is successfully delivered, Miracle Messages continue to act as a communication bridge between the homeless client (and their caseworker) and the loved ones.

Miracle Messages can be recorded from clients through our online referral form, our paper-based form, our 1-800-MISS-YOU hotline, and our mobile app.

In each of our referral channels, we only need four bits of info to begin a case:

  • Client basic information

  • Loved one information (as much as the client knows)

  • How to reach the client again (or the referring staff member)

  • The miracle message itself—a short written, audio, or video message from the client to the loved one. This can be as simple as “I miss you.”

How is Miracle Messages effective for clients?

Miracle Messages lowers the barriers to reaching out, and we meet clients where they are at. It’s that simple. As a result, we have reconnected almost 200 people experiencing homelessness with loved ones, by simply offering the chance to deliver a message. MM offers clients a low-stakes, low-barrier opportunity to say “hello,” “I miss you,” “I love you,” or “I’m sorry” — just send us a message that a client would like delivered, and we’ll do our best to deliver it! By offering this first step toward reconnecting, we are creating an avenue for hope, without creating undue pressure or stress for clients or their loved ones.

How is Miracle Messages effective for partner sites?

Miracle Messages is a lifeline for clients and a resource for staff. We designed our service as a resource for caseworkers, shelters, outreach workers, law enforcement, and other personnel who are engaging with homeless clients.

Delivering messages—and acting as a messenger between two parties—can be extremely time consuming. Finding loved ones can require extensive research, multiple phone calls, and repeated callbacks. We know that most professionals on the front lines of homelessness don’t have the time, bandwidth, or leeway to take that on. That’s why we do this work for you, so that you can focus on your clients’ other needs while we locate loved ones and deliver messages.

How do we get started?
How can I get involved? We need this in my city / community / organization!
How did Miracle Messages get started?

Kevin F. Adler created Miracle Messages in honor of his Uncle Mark, who suffered from schizophrenia and spent 30 years on-and-off the streets before he passed away. Read the backstory.

 

Do people experiencing homelessness even want to reunite with their loved ones?

There are 160 million homeless and otherwise displaced people on earth. We know how big an issue this is - in the United States, we see it every day, with 600,000 people sleeping on the streets nightly. 

But is there anything we can personally do?

The reasons for homelessness are vast and complicated — eviction, mental illness, addiction, domestic violence, job loss, medical bills, and more. But when a homeless person is asked how they became homeless, it is common to hear the same general refrain:

"I never realized I was homeless when I lost my housing. Only when I lost my family and friends that provided me with support."

Everyone is someone's somebody, but the majority of homeless people are totally disconnected from their social support systems. While relational brokenness and mental illness separate some families, many homeless people are disconnected due to digital literacy, access to technology, lost contact information, feeling ashamed, and/or feeling worthless (i.e., technological and emotional barriers).

 

How do you deal with issues of safety?

We mitigate risks by meeting potential clients in public or through trusted partner organizations, as well as directing clients to use our toll-free hotline, 1-800-MISS-YOU. However, safety cannot be guaranteed in doing this work, and volunteers engage in it freely and at their own volition.

 

How do you deal with issues of privacy?

We treat each person as we would hope one of our loved ones would be treated. We have created three viable avenues for messages to be recorded, each with a different emphasis on privacy: a mobile app for recording video messages, a toll-free hotline (1-800-MISS-YOU) for recording audio and text messages, and a web-based referral form for recording text messages.

In all cases, we only work with clients who can make an informed consent to participate, are at least 18-years old, and are looking for a loved one 18-years or older. All participation is fully voluntary.

 

How big of a problem is homelessness in the United States?

- Tonight, over 600,000 people across the United States are homeless.
- This year, over 3.5 million Americans will experience homelessness.
- The above number includes 1.6 million children.
- 1 in 3 people in the US are one or two paychecks away from homelessness.
- 1 in 3 cities in the US criminalize homelessness with anti-camping/sleeping laws.
- Total public cost for a homeless person to be on the streets: $35K-$150K/year
- Total public cost to keep a formerly homeless person housed: $13K-$25K/year
- On average, homeless people die 30 years younger than average.

 

What resources do you give reunited families?

For starters, check out our post-reunion support guide.

 

I have a family member who is homeless or missing. Can you help me locate them?

We are beginning to compile information and stories on missing loved ones, with the intention of sharing this information at shelters to further publicize the individual case, and to inspire people experiencing homelessness that they, too, may have loved ones who want to reconnect with them.

If you are interested in this, please fill out this form.