After nearly three decades on the streets of Astoria, Mark found a home with Breaking Ground.
Mark grew up in Astoria, Queens, where he lived with his grandmother, and was part of a group of friends who have remained close for many decades. “I met Mark in the fifth grade,” said his friend Daryl. “He was one of the funniest kids in the neighborhood. He always had us laughing.”
Mark and his friends came of age when hip hop was burgeoning in New York City. While some dabbled in rap, Mark took it much more seriously – and he had a talent for it. His group, Strictly Bizness, released a single in 1988 and he wrote rhymes for some of the biggest names at the time.
But then life took a turn. At college, he started having difficulties, left before graduating and returned to Queens. Without a stable support system, and after a serious run in with drugs, he became homeless and, at least to his friends, disappeared. For nearly 30 years, he survived most every night unsheltered in Astoria, all the while grappling with serious mental illness.
Breaking Ground outreach teams have known and engaged Mark since we began working with street homeless individuals across Queens in 2007. After years of patient persistence, trying to convince Mark to come indoors, our outreach colleagues were finally able to connect with his many friends from the neighborhood while he was hospitalized. Discovering his hip hop roots, the outreach team found his album and played the single, “Call It What You Want,” for him in one of our outreach vans.
Those connections with his friends and his music finally enabled us to convince Mark to enter a Safe Haven transitional residence in 2016. He has been taking steps toward stability ever since. In March, Mark moved into an apartment at The Lee, Breaking Ground’s supportive residence on the Lower East Side. With the support of his friends, and assistance from our outreach teams, he now has the keys to a home of his own.
And today Mark is at work on a new song. We can’t wait to hear it.