Non-Profit Organization Using White Pages to Connect Homeless People with Their Families
NEW YORK – In life, there are few things more disconcerting and isolating than homelessness. Often, these people are the victims of a wide range of maladies – including job loss and mental illness – but whatever the cause for their situation, once they’ve embraced a life on the streets it can be quite difficult for the people who care most about them to track them down and offer a helping hand.
However, there is a new organization that is helping to track down the families of people residing at homeless shelters in an effort to help them get their lives back on track. Miracle Messages is a non-profit “reunion service” that helps people experiencing homelessness reunite with their loved ones in a positive and supportive way. Often, volunteers of this organization will visit homeless shelters and get to know some of the regular inhabitants. Sometimes these people can be difficult to communicate with, making it difficult to extrapolate any information from them that can be used to track down their families. But with proper training and a “can-do” attitude, the volunteer can take a few scraps of information – utilized in conjunction with an online White Pages directory – and cultivate very real connections to an individual’s past.
Of course, a reunion may not be desired on one end or the other – or both, for that matter – but the goal of groups like Miracle Messages is to simply provide a way to open a channel of communication without mandating that a party on either end actually makes use of it.
Miracle Messages relays the story of a man named Timothy, who was living at one point recently at a homeless shelter in San Francisco known as Saint Anthony’s. A volunteer took a family phone number that he had – a phone number that was actually incorrect – and used that along with whatever information Timothy could recall about his family and where he lived, and used that to discover a White Pages listing for the man’s sister. The volunteer wrote a letter, and heard back from Timothy’s family within a week. In less than a month, Timothy had boarded a bus set for his home back east and a reunion with his loved ones; it turns out that Timothy’s family had been searching for him for quite some time, but due to whatever issues he was experiencing, they were unable to locate him. It’s amazing what a little detective work – combined with a White Pages directory – can accomplish.
The United States currently has over 500,000 homeless people within its borders; all of those people have their own individual stories of how they came to their current state. But the one thing they almost all have in common is a deep sense of loneliness, which is a condition that is only exasperated by having to rely on the charity of others in order to eke out an existence on this planet. What many of these people need, more than anything else, is help getting in touch with the people that love and care for them, and thankfully there are now options out there for achieving that.
Reuniting a homeless person with their family can provide numerous benefits; aside from having a roof over their head, of course, it offers them a more positive outlook on life, as well as people who can advocate for them if they are experiencing any mental or physical health-related issues.
Miracle Messages and similar organizations are part of a growing movement to help do away with homelessness in our country, having reconnected hundreds of people with their families to date. In addition to helping individuals, this also serves practical purposes for society, as the average undomiciled person typically cost taxpayers, on average, over $35,000 a year in public assistance. In addition, most governmental aid systems place a priority on assisting families and women; someone like Timothy could have found himself lost in the system for years before getting the assistance he needed, if ever.
Of course, there are other digital avenues the volunteers can use to reunite people who have been separated from their families, aside from the White Pages; Facebook is an effective means of doing so, according to Miracle Messages. Another case in California involved a man named Jeffrey who hadn’t seeing his family members in 22 years. A volunteer, after getting to know Jeffrey, recorded a video of him on their phone and posted it to Facebook; there it went viral, and within less than 30 minutes Jeffrey’s sister was tagged and soon afterwards, the family was reunited.
When it comes to helping out helping to wipe out the scourge of homelessness in our country once and for all, it doesn’t take much; just a little compassion, detective work, and access to a digital phone directory or social media site. From there, it’s just a matter of setting up an avenue of communication and waiting to see if the parties involved will take it.