Social entrepreneur and Miracle Messages CEO Kevin Adler reunites the homeless with loved ones one message at a time.
He does it it with only his cell phone and Facebook. KRIS 6 News caught up with Adler -- who's been featured in the New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, People Magazine and other national media outlets -- on Thursday, and found out more about his message.
While walking down New York City's Market Street asking the homeless if they would like to record a holiday message for loved ones in 2014, one man named Jeffrey changed everything for Adler.
A few years and several viral videos later, Miracle Messages took shape, becoming what it is today.
Adler says it's pretty simple.
"We help people experiencing homelessness reconnect with their loved ones," he said.
To date, Miracle Messages has reunited 270 people all across the country, with the average time apart at 15 years. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 600,000 people find themselves sleeping on the streets every night.
The non-profit is trying to change that through short videos.
"We work with local volunteers, and also referral partners like Metro Ministries here in Corpus Christi, where people record short video, audio and text messages to their loved ones," he said.
It's all done through a network of trained digital detectives who go online, make phone calls and write letters. They try and locate the loved ones to deliver the message, and hopefully reunite them with their families.
On Thursday, Adler was gathering one of those messages.
"So basically I'll ask you to state your name, who you want to record a message to and then speak to the camera and speak to him," he explains.
He found one woman who had a message for her son, who was 4 years old the last time he saw her. Her son now has a child of his own.
Noemi Rodriguez, who's been living on the streets for years, gave Adler her message:
"Adrian, I miss you, I love you, I wish things could have been different," she said. "Please don't hate me. I did what I had to do so you could have a better life. I hope you're happy."
Once recorded, the video gets uploaded to the case management system where the volunteer digital team goes to work.
Noemi is just one of so many across the country hoping to reconnect. On Wednesday, Miracle Messages recorded half a dozen messages and was able to reconnect one man with his brother within 15 minutes.
But it isn't always that easy, and those living on the streets aren't always so willing to speak.
"We believe that relational poverty is poverty," he said. "And we want to embrace our neighbors on the streets that are experiencing homelessness, not as problems to be solved, but as people to be loved."
He has found that many people on the streets suffer from mental illness, drug addictions, or severe disabilities. Helping them with that first step to reach out to family is sometimes all it takes to get them off the streets and into a positive environment.
Approximately 15 percent of reunions have led to a homeless person getting off the streets and into housing. This year alone, over 3.5 million Americans will experience homelessness. Five states account for more than half of the country's homeless population: California, Florida, Massachusetts, New York, and Texas.