With Georgia State University being an open, urban campus in the heart of Atlanta, students are likely to encounter someone who is homeless. Including the public resources and nightlife that attract people into the city, the businesses on and surrounding campus provide an opportunity for someone facing food insecurities. In 2016, Partners for Home reported that the homeless population in Atlanta accounted for 4,063 individuals, which included sheltered (emergency and transitional) and unsheltered. This number also may be affected due to the city’s biggest homeless shelter, Peachtree-Pine, closing down this past summer.
There are many organizations that work to help people in need, but there is one in particular that has taken impacting lives to another level. Miracle Messages is a nonprofit organization that works to connect their clients, individuals facing homelessness, with their loved ones. In an interview with Sarah Samynathan, a senior at California Polytechnic State University, she explains the ongoing mission of Miracle Messages and her experience working with the organization.
Samynathan opened the conversation with a comparison to how someone is more susceptible to end up living on the streets. “If I were to lose everything today, I have my parents that would take me in, or my friends would let me stay with them for a few days throughout the week,” she explained. You are vulnerable to homelessness when you do not have some kind of support system to fall back on if this were ever to occur. “You can lose everything, but when you lose all of your social connections . . . that’s when you can become homeless.”
In December 2014, Kevin Alder founded Miracle Messages to make “an immediate and tangible impact” on the lives of individuals facing hardships that have caused them to be in these circumstances. Alder’s vision was driven by his experience with a family member who struggled with schizophrenia, and lived on-and off the streets for 30 years. With the organization established in San Francisco, California, Miracle Messages is working towards expanding its vision to local communities around the world.
This organization gives people the opportunity to give back on a larger scale. There are organizations that exist and volunteers that serve their community helping others in need. However, Miracle Messages is working towards finding a permanent solution for their clients. Samynathan explained, “We never refer to them as homeless. We call them clients.” The condescending tone associated with the term, along with common misconceptions, undermines the work that Miracle Messages strives to achieve. “Everyone has a set of principles they were brought up by, and I was always taught that I’m no better than anyone. We are all the same,” Samynathan stated.
Miracle Messages gains their clientele by having organized events, such as going to shelters, where volunteers form relationships with each client and spend time getting to know them and their story. After speaking with the client and forming a genuine relationship, the question formed around sending a message to a loved one is brought to the table. The client can either agree or decline the offer. If they agree, the messengers record a video message that the client wishes to send their family member or friend. From there the detectives use “social media for social good” to find the person their client is trying to reach out to. With Facebook and White Pages being their main sources to locate a loved one, Miracle Messages utilizes social media to restore the connections and relationships that were once lost.
As college students, we don’t have a lot of money to spare. Majority of college students take part in community service to show their efforts of giving back to the community. Volunteering costs nothing than your time, and all the work Miracle Messages does is volunteer based. There are 904 detectives in the organization’s Facebook group where they network about new and on-going cases and share any progress being made. From putting on organized events, forming relationships, to finding people through social media, all of which is done by volunteers all over the nation. Sarah stated, “For someone to come home after a full day of work and still say, ‘I’m going to spend this amount of hours looking for this person,’ that’s dedication.”
Why do these volunteers put their efforts into doing something for people they do not know and have never directly encountered? Samynathan responded saying, “These people were once teachers, veterans, basketball players . . . you name it. Life happens, but the part that makes it more relatable is it could easily be happening to us.” Even though one may not be directly affected, that does not mean help should not be offered. Often times people become invested in their community not for themselves or recognition, but to help the next person. Once society stops labeling someone in need as “less than,” we can begin to look beyond social status and grasp the entirety of humanity and continue to head in the direction we collectively, as people, should be working towards. Miracle Messages emphasizes that you are not your story; your story is a part of you. Taking a global issue and making a success story out of it is something everyone should want to be apart of, not for your own gratification, but because someone has to fight for the ones who are underestimated and overlooked.
For more information on Miracle Messages visit their website, www.miraclemessages.org.
Pictures provided by Sarah Samynathan and Miracle Messages.