Miracle Messages' approach to reconnecting homeless individuals with their loved ones is simple and effective. It can be summarized as a three step process:
- Step 1: Initiate the case. A Miracle Messages volunteer connects with a person experiencing homelessness and collects information about the loved one that the homeless individual wants to reconnect with. If desired, the homeless client may record a video message to their loved one.
- Step 2: Deliver the message. That volunteer uses internet research tools--as well as the resource of the Miracle Messages community--to locate the loved one and deliver the message. This involves internet searching, making phone calls and messages, and of course, using every shred of gumption and ingenuity in your arsenal.
- Step 3: Reunite people. If the loved one wants to reconnect with the homeless individual, the volunteer works to facilitate a reunion.
Details on each of these steps are below. Remember: there is no magical Miracle Messages machine--it's all volunteers like you doing the work!
Step 1: Initiate.
The process of initiating a search can begin either through a Miracle Messages kiosk, or through the Miracle Messages mobile app.
The Miracle Messages Hotline
The Miracle Messages hotline (coming January 2018) is the easiest, most direct way for clients, caseworkers, and loved ones to initiate a search. A homeless person (or their representative) will be able to simply call the hotline number, provide some information to the volunteer on call, and give us a callback number to relay information about their case.
With the development of the Miracle Messages hotline, our service is no longer limited to a few pilot cities. Anyone, from anywhere, can initiate a case.
The Miracle Messages Mobile App
Miracle Messages Mobile App
The Miracle Messages mobile app is available for download from the app store. The mobile app can be used to collect the same information as on the kiosk, and that information is also transmitted to the Miracle Messages database.
The best way to use the Miracle Messages app is by attending (or hosting) an organized Miracle Messages event, such as an outreach walk or a community gathering. To find out about events in your city, or to learn how you can begin hosting Miracle Messages event, please sign up for an orientation session.
Note: Volunteers who download and use the mobile app are also responsible for researching their cases, reaching out to loved ones, and facilitating reunions when appropriate. Remember, there is no magical machinery at Miracle Messages--it's up to you to do the work.
The Miracle Messages Kiosk
Miracle Messages kiosks are located at partner sites in Boston, Austin, and San Francisco. A homeless person who wants to reconnect with a loved one can press a button on this kiosk and be connected instantly with a volunteer who will help. Maybe, after you finish this training, that volunteer will be you :)
Details on how to volunteer as a kiosk volunteer can be found in a separate training, which you can access by clicking the button below. However, in order to sign up for a kiosk shift, you must first attend a Miracle Messages volunteer orientation.
Step 2: Deliver.
Once a search has been initiated, the volunteer who recorded the case immediately starts searching for the loved one in question. Volunteers use search tools such as whitepages premium, facebook, ancestry.com, and others to try to find contact information for the loved one*. When the volunteer comes across a promising lead, he or she attempts to contact the loved one and let that person know that our client wants to reconnect. The basic process is as follows:
- Use the video, case notes, and online resources to identify people who might be (or lead you to) the loved on in question
- Reach out by phone, email, or through social media channels to determine whether those leads have led you to the right person
- Make the initial connection to the loved one, in which you let that person know who you are and that there is a message for them.
A detailed guide to researching cases can be found in a separate training, which you can access by clicking the button below. However, you can only be granted access to the case database by attending a volunteer orientation session.
*When a message is recorded on the mobile app, the kiosk volunteer on call will also be notified so that he or she can assist with the search. However, it is the responsibility of the person who recorded the message to make sure that the case is researched, that loved ones are contacted, and that the search results are conveyed to the homeless client.
In the best case scenario, the message that you record will go to two parties wanting to reconnect. When that happens, we want you to be part of it. Reunions are an incredibly inspiring and gratifying part of this work.
Miracle Messages is currently in the process of developing protocols for how to best facilitate reunions, and we hope to add this to the messenger training soon. For the moment, when you reach the point where facilitating a reconnection is imminent, let Kevin or Jess know. We will work to bring in the right parties--including case workers and support services.
Perry and his son Joey, reunited at last.
Once a reunion has occurred, Miracle Messages follows up with the loved one to offer resources to support the reunion. You can see the template that we use here.