Off-duty tech workers help the homeless reconnect with loved ones

Group connects homeless with lost loved ones

In downtown San Francisco, on any given block, signs of a supersonic tech economy share streets with people who are all but forgotten. Though it's unlikely they have much in common, the goodwill of a few are bringing them together in hopes of making miracles.

It starts with off-duty tech workers who volunteer to be "digital detectives," reports CBS News' Meg Oliver. Databases, apps and online searches are part of their arsenal to locate people who made a difference in a homeless person's past. Then, they send a message.

Aptly called Miracle Messages, it's the brainchild of Kevin Adler, whose homeless uncle became part of his life after 30 years of separation.

"We always hear about the mental health, the addiction, the substance abuse. That accounts for about a third of homelessness. But a third is related to economic dislocation," Adler told CBS News' Meg Oliver. "So you know, job loss, eviction. The other third is related to relational brokenness – so loss of a loved one, a death in the family, getting kicked out of home, a divorce or separation. And so what we're doing is we're targeting that aspect of homelessness and saying, 'Hey, you know you have family and friends. You have social supports. Let's record a message.'"

Beverly Stevenson and her friend Brian, both no longer homeless, are paid Miracle Message ambassadors who double as the advertising department, with business cards in hand and t-shirts that read, "everybody is someone's somebody."
 
They put boots on the ground to walk streets around Union Square – prime San Francisco real estate where Beverly slept for 13 years.

"I just tell them, 'We're here to help you hook up with your lost loved ones, family, brothers, and sisters, uncles, cousins,'" Brian said.

Karen Flood of the San Francisco Union Square Business Improvement District was willing to help by supporting Miracle Messages' work.

"They are human beings. So we do need to address them humanely," Flood said. "I think the level of frustration has gotten really high in our city. So you don't always look at people, you look at the problems they're leaving behind."

Adler said the organization is focused on targeting "relational poverty," which he says often gets overlooked by other programs.

In the four years since Miracle Messages' small staff started searching for lost loved ones, some 200 homeless people have reconnected with people who were eager to find them. According to Adler, the organization hears from two to three families per day looking for homeless relatives.

The average time spent away from each other is 20 years, but for those who do meet again, "everyone is someone's somebody" is much more than just a slogan on a t-shirt.