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How one common fundamental revenue experiment helps the homeless

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Miracle Messages Founder and CEO Kevin F. Adler, right, with Community Ambassadors Beverly Stevenson and Brian Whitten in San Francisco.

San Francisco Chronicle / Hearst Newspapers via Getty Images | Hearst Newspapers | Getty Images

More than six years ago, Kevin F. Adler was walking the streets of his neighborhood in San Francisco with an unusual goal: to get to know the homeless residents.

During this time, he met a man named Jeffrey, who had been missing for 12 years.

After posting on social media, Adler was able to reconnect Jeffrey with his family, who hadn’t seen him in more than 20 years.

“I started talking to people on the street and I kept hearing people say, ‘I never realized that I was homeless when I lost my apartment, only when I lost my family and friends'”, said Adler.

This experience inspired Adler, whose own uncle was homeless for 30 years, to set up a program called Miracle Messages to reunite other unhodged people with loved ones.

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According to Adler, the program has reunited approximately 500 families in the United States today.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, Miracle Messages expanded its programs to advance its aid even further. It began with bringing the unhodged together with members of the community to help build relationships.

Then she raised money to test a universal basic income project for the homeless.

The universal basic income has become a buzzword, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang popularized the concept when he promised to give Americans $ 1,000 a month with no strings attached.

Now UBI experiments are popping up in cities across the United States.

This new program called Miracle Money is the first of its kind aimed at the homeless in the United States. A program in Vancouver, Canada called the New Leaf Project has also tested the concept.

Miracle Money began raising funds in December 2020 and eventually raised around $ 50,000 through individual donors.

Then, in February, the program began distributing payments of $ 500 per month to 14 uninhabited people in the area.

The participants were selected from nominations within the community.

A temporarily sanctioned homeless tent camp across from City Hall in San Francisco on May 28, 2020.

Lui Guanguan | China Intelligence Service | Getty Images

The program is designed so that $ 500 monthly income does not interfere with other government benefits that participants may receive.

All participants had to set up bank accounts in order to receive the money. They were also paired with a “buddy” from the community whom they would keep in touch with. Financial coaches were also available upon request to help them navigate their new resources.

In particular, there were no requirements for the use of the money.

The initial results of this pilot project are “amazing,” said Adler, as more than 35% of the participants were able to use this monthly income to secure permanent housing. “I didn’t expect anyone to be accommodated. We didn’t even measure that at first,” said Adler.

One of the participants who was able to change his circumstances – and his life – is Ray, 49. (Ray requested that his last name be withheld for privacy reasons).

His connection to the program began when someone knocked on the door of the makeshift shelter where he was staying. The question they asked was simple, he said, “Would you like to have a friend every now and then to talk to?”

Ray, left, and Jennifer Roy were brought together as part of the Miracle Friends program. Today Ray calls it a “life saving experience”.

Jim Madden

After saying yes, Ray was hooked up with Jennifer Roy, a Marin County resident and Miracle Friend volunteer who became friends with him and eventually nominated him to take part in the UBI pilot.

Ray became homeless after suffering from heart failure, which he attributed in part to overwork from the stress and travel that his sales job required.

Participation in the program was a “life-saving experience,” he said.

He was able to fully reconnect with his 18-year-old daughter after regaining the feeling that he could help care for her.

“Miracle Friends gave me the only thing I really didn’t have because I wasn’t housed and that was the trust that I could be part of someone’s life,” he said.

One thing we should do is trust the ingenuity and ingenuity of some people affected by homelessness.

Kevin F. Adler

Founder and CEO of Miracle Messages

Ray also found work, first at a Covid-19 testing site and then at a vaccination center as the pandemic progressed.

“Getting up every morning and having a goal was amazing,” he said.

Today, after watching his daughter graduate from high school and prepare to go to college, he took his own step. Ray moved to Kansas and paid the first six months of rent in an apartment he shares with a friend. By providing money, he also has the opportunity to focus on his health.

But the social support he received for the program through his relationship with Roy and others is even more valuable, he said.

“When you’re not housed, it’s easy to go on with life on your own and not worry about anyone or even turn to people when you really need to. You’re used to being alone,” said Ray . “There wasn’t a roof over my head – I didn’t have to feel homeless anymore.”

Roy said she also noticed a change as their friendship grew.

“Ray realized that I can’t do this on my own,” said Roy. “I don’t want to do this alone. It’s really about community.”

While Ray has received more help than he ever expected, she said, he has also realized how much he has to give back because of these relationships he has built.

Both say that despite the geographic distance between them, they expect to be lifelong friends.

In addition to securing their homes, the program participants were also able to be successful in other ways, for example by purchasing service dogs or purchasing the necessary equipment.

Miracle Messages founder and CEO Kevin F. Adler with a homeless man in Union Square in San Francisco on January 29, 2019.

San Francisco Chronicle / Hearst Newspapers via Getty Images | Hearst Newspapers | Getty Images

“They used the money better than I could have told them to use the money,” Adler said.

“One thing we should do is trust the ingenuity and ingenuity of some of the people experiencing homelessness and the barriers they have already encountered with housing and resources,” he said.

Now the program plans to look at how it can continue to provide financial aid beyond the initial $ 50,000 pilot, Adler said.

These include potential partnerships with other cities and towns that may want to develop similar programs or possibly conduct additional pilot projects themselves, Adler said.

Meanwhile, the other programs to reunite the homeless with loved ones or bring them together with friends continue to grow nationwide, Adler said.

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