SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) We’ve seen the crisis of homelessness spread throughout the Bay Area. But this week’s Jefferson award winner says doing something about it means looking at someone who is homeless as a person, not a problem. Then, listen to their story in order to help them.
When Kevin Adler saw a homeless man in San Francisco, he flashed back to his Uncle Mark, who lived on and off the streets for 30 years.
“It wasn’t until after he passed away that I really started thinking, ‘Gosh I am walking down the street here in SF, I see a person experiencing homelessness, that could have been my uncle!'” he recalled.
Kevin’s uncle, often the life of the party at family holidays, also battled schizophrenia.
“(Seeing the homeless man) just started to bother me too much,” Adler said. “I couldn’t un-see what I had seen.”
So the tech entrepreneur summoned his faith:
“I wondered how would Jesus use a smart phone?”
The answer? Use the video recorder. So three years ago, Adler quit his job and launched a non-profit he called Miracle Messages, seeking to reunite the homeless with their loved ones.
He hit the streets and recorded a homeless man’s message. The miracle came after he posted that video to Facebook.
“Within the first 20 minutes of that post, his sister was tagged,” Adler explained. “We got on the phone the next day. She said that Jeffery had been a missing person for 12 years.”
Three years later, Adler and his team of one thousand “digital detective” volunteers roam the streets, record the homeless and their messages, and post the videos online. So far, they’ve reunited nearly 120 homeless people with family members.
In fact, Miracle Messages was instrumental in a case recently profiled on KPIX 5.
“To have you back puts a piece of my heart back,” said Marie Pauline Oakley to her son. “It means the world to me.”
“For the mother who is 85 years old to say, ‘I would love nothing more than to get to know my son in the last years of my life,’ and for that display or reconciliation and grace, that was very moving,” Adler said.
Jessica Donig also left the tech industry to work alongside Kevin. Now she’s the Director of Operations for Miracle Messages.
“It has made me realize that any person can have a positive impact on homelessness simply by caring,” she said.
Caring.. and making connections.
“A person is not a problem. A person is a person,” Adler reminds everyone. “And we need to re-embrace them as a community, so yeah we can end homelessness.”
So for working to solve homelessness one message at a time, this week’s Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Kevin Adler.
If you are homeless or have a family member you believe is homeless, you can reach Miracle Messages at this number: 1-800-MISS-YOU.