Home for the Holidays concert raises funds to reunite homeless people with their families
By Joe Piasecki and Christina Campodonico
Music, perhaps more than any other art form, has a way of bringing people together.
The inaugural Home for the Holidays benefit concert and party aims to do just that: help reunite homeless people in Venice with estranged family members who may be willing to welcome them home again.
For five days leading up to the Sunday show, outreach workers with Safe Place for Youth and the St. Joseph Center are teaming up with Miracle Messages, a nonprofit that uses social media to deliver video messages from homeless people to their loved ones. After a promising connection is made, proceeds from the concert will fund any travel costs needed to send a homeless person home again.
Miracle Messages chapters in San Francisco, New York and other places have delivered 20 video messages, resulting in 11 reunions.
“I watched the videos and was moved by them,” says Venice Neighborhood Council ad hoc Homeless Committee Chairman Will Hawkins, who organized the Miracle Messages collaboration in Venice and hopes to make it a lasting presence here.
“The city’s coordinated entry system costs tens of thousands of dollars; this doesn’t cost taxpayers a dime. We have to continue to look outside the box for solutions,” he says. “The community has to get their hands dirty.”
Jessica Day, director of programming for Miracle Messages, is calling for local volunteers to form a permanent Venice chapter.
To increase the effort’s chances of success, Hawkins tapped local nonprofits who have already built trust relationships with locals living on the streets. To pay for it, the marketing manager and alt-country tunesmith tapped a few friends in the industry and will round out the bill with his own voice and guitar.
Headlining the show is singer-songwriter Maia Sharp, who has had her songs recorded by the Dixie Chicks, Bonnie Raitt, Trisha Yearwood, Keb’ Mo’, Cher and Art Garfunkel and released her sixth solo album last year.
She’s sharing the stage with contemplative local songstress Kim Michalowski, who owns the Ananda boutique on Abbot Kinney Boulevard, and folk artist David Poe, who often lends his talents to social causes.
Poe has done ‘miracle messages’ of his own over the years, lending his time and his smart phone to helping homeless people in Manhattan reconnect with long-lost relatives.
“This kind of outreach is so critical,” he says. “The best advice I ever got from a friend of mine who worked in a homeless shelter was when you encounter these folks and they ask for money, get them a meal. And if you have time, eat with them and talk to them, because so often it’s that connection with another person that [homeless] people are missing.”
The “Home for the Holidays” benefit concert and party is from 5 to 9 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 4, at Safe Place for Youth, 2469 S. Lincoln Blvd., Venice. Individual tickets are $75 to $150. For tickets, search “Home for the Holidays Benefit Concert” on Facebook or Eventbrite. To volunteer, call (415) 545-8406 or visit miraclemessages.org.