The first thing Mark Cross asked when he told us his story was not for himself, but a friend. He wanted to find help for the young woman experiencing homelessness who helped him learn how to live in a tent in St. Paul. Mark, a Navy Veteran in his sixties, has spent his life thinking of others and how to help those he cares about the most.
In fact, the reason he became homeless in Minnesota was because of his commitment to the care of a loved one. The mother of his children had terminal cancer, and asked Mark to help her. After moving between St. Paul and Chicago numerous times since 2019, Mark found himself living in hotels and eventually out of a tent when COVID-19 hit.
“I started camping out and noticed [MACV’s] outreach team coming through to provide food and engage with homeless people in the encampments,” Mark explains. “It was the first time since ’84 that I had any service or help related to being a Veteran.”
Many Veterans who engage with MACV had a four- or six-year military career, then moved on to other ventures. As a service member who achieved the Master-at-Arms rank and eventually led the supply team on the USS St. Louis in San Diego, Mark enjoyed the chance to visit eight countries, learn valuable skills, and then leave the intensity of military life behind.
Mark’s tent home in 2020.
Even when he started having health problems twenty years ago, he never used the VA services to which he was entitled. As his health and financial stability deteriorated, “I came back to Minnesota for healthcare,” says Mark, and found himself camping out shortly thereafter.
Veterans like Mark, those experiencing unsheltered homelessness and ongoing medical conditions, are one of the highest priority groups MACV serves. After securing a hotel stay for Mark for his safety and health, MACV staff member Kim Cameron helped the Veteran find his own place. “I am so thankful for what transpired through MACV for me. Kimberley was awesome.”
Kim’s support helped Mark navigate the housing subsidy world, eventually connecting him with a Section 8 voucher. As a result, Mark moved into his own place on April 7. “The process worked for me in the midst of COVID,” he says with some amazement.
“In the midst of the storm, there is a flower blooming somewhere,” Mark notes. And even during the happiest times, a sad note can appear. Mark’s former partner recently passed, along with two uncles in the same month. The realities of other people experiencing homelessness now hit closer to home for Mark.
“There’s some sadness, but so much good that came out of this circumstance,” Mark observes. “I still believe the good outweighs the bad.” Thank you for allowing MACV to walk beside you these past few months, Mark. We are thrilled by your success and cannot wait to see what you do next.