Homelessness and Reunions: A Critical Piece of the Puzzle for the Unhoused

June 15, 2021 | By Heather Bates, MSW, Alexis Sabor, CAPM, and Sarabeth Zemel, J.D., Transform Health and Madeline Connolly, Miracle Messages

Share This:

At any given time in 2020, more than half a million people experienced homelessness in the United States.[1] A consequence of becoming homeless is losing crucial social connections with family and friends leading to loneliness and isolation.[2] Social supports from family, friends, and neighbors have been shown to lead to better physical and behavioral health outcomes for unhoused individuals[3] and can ultimately help them transition out of homelessness. One organization is working to reestablish social networks for those experiencing homelessness in California and throughout the United States, with international reach in some cases.

Miracle Messages

An award-winning nonprofit organization that rebuilds social support systems for our unhoused neighbors, primarily through family reunification services, a phone-based buddy system, and direct cash transfers.

Reunion services:

A person experiencing homelessness records a message to a loved one (or vice versa). Then, our network of volunteer “digital detectives” attempt to locate the loved one and deliver the message. To date, we’ve reunited 400+ families (average time separated: 15 years), with 15% of reunions resulting in stable housing and 80% in a positive outcome.

Buddy system:

Miracle Friends is a first-of-its-kind phone-based buddy system for people isolated by homelessness. Miracle Friends has matched 130+ unhoused neighbors with trained volunteers for weekly phone calls and texts, in partnership with 20+ service providers in five counties in CA, AZ, and FL. Volunteers are welcome to apply from anywhere in the world. 

Direct cash transfers:

Miracle Money is a direct cash transfer program for people experiencing homelessness in the United States. Beginning in January 2021, an initial pilot of 15 unhoused participants in Miracle Friends will receive $500/month for six months.

Miracle Messages offers a humane and effective way to help end homelessness:

Strengthen social supports, shatter stigmas, and empower people everywhere to get involved. Our work has been featured in the New York Times, Washington Post, SF Chronicle, CNN, in an essay by President Bush, in a TED talk, and hundreds more. We are on a mission to end relational poverty on the streets, and in the process, inspire people to embrace their unhoused neighbors not as problems to be solved, but as people to be loved. Everyone is someone’s somebody. Join us, learn more, or donate today.

Miracle Messages estimates that one out of three individuals experiencing homelessness have lost their social support systems. Through its programs, the organization is helping to rebuild these vitally important social connections one person at a time and offering a way to help end homelessness. Transform Health also featured Miracle Messages during the City of Sacramento’s Whole Person Care Health and Housing pilot program currently available on our YouTube channel.


For more information about Miracle Messages, please email madeline@miraclemessages.org

To learn more or work with Transform Health please email heather@transformhc.com

[1] U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, HUD 2020 Continuum of Care Homeless Assistance Programs Homeless Populations and Subpopulations Full Summary Report (All States, Territories, Puerto Rico and District of Columbia), available at https://files.hudexchange.info/reports/published/CoC_PopSub_NatlTerrDC_2020.pdf.

[2] Bower, M et al. Australian homeless persons’ experiences of social connectedness, isolation and loneliness. Health and Social Care in the Community (2017) 26(2), 241-248.

[3] Hwang, Stephen W., et al. Multidimensional Social Support and the Health of Homeless Individuals, Journal of Urban Health (Sept. 2009), available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2729873/.