Sitting at his kitchen table in the apartment he’s been living in since Spring 2023, 27-year-old Mark is hopeful.
“I just have a lot more peace of mind and feel more at peace with myself. I can relax and work on maintaining my mental health. I feel like I’m actually part of life and society, and not forgotten about like when I was on the streets,” he shares.
A Veteran, Mark grew up in Lewiston, ME, but experienced homelessness on and off throughout his childhood and early adult life, sometimes living at shelters with his family before leaving home at age 15. His most recent bout of homelessness found him staying at shelters in Portland.
“I just felt like I was gonna maybe be stuck out there forever. I thought it was gonna be a cycle that lasted forever because I’ve never really known anything else.”
Despite struggling with depression and substance use, Mark was determined to find a way off the streets. Kind and open-hearted, he made friends with others experiencing homelessness in the community.
“We just tried to stick together and make life easier for each other. We’d help each other cope with mental health and addiction. I met a lot of people that lost their homes because of the crisis with the economy or the virus or any number of things. Homelessness doesn’t discriminate it seems with everything going on these days,” he says.
He heard about Preble Street while staying at the local shelter, and connected with a caseworker from the Veterans Housing Services program. Together they found ways to help Mark reach his goals. While it’s never easy for a person to face their struggles head on, Mark did just that, admitting himself to a hospital for a short stay so he could take control of his mental health and begin recovery from substance use.
Today, Mark is in recovery and living in an apartment in Westbrook. He is rebuilding a relationship with his father, also a Veteran, who lives down the street.
“It’s hard meeting people,” he shares. “But I’m trying to get more integrated in local recovery groups, and I want to try to get a part time job, or maybe go back to school and get a degree where I work with the public. My faith has helped me a lot and I’ve been looking into pastoral studies too. I want to at least make some type of mark. I want to help others like I’ve been helped.”