In mid-March of this year, I published a post titled: Wedding Bells in Brandon, Florida.
It was about Mark Neville and Nan Schrack, a couple in Florida who had been together for 14-years — and homeless for the last 5-years.
Due to Nan’s failing health, Mark wanted to obtain housing to care for her. In order to qualify for certain government services and subsidized housing as a couple however, they needed to be married. So, in an outdoor ceremony, they became husband and wife.
In that post I wrote:
"To some, it might seem a bit foolish or irresponsible for a couple who is homeless to get married. After all, what can they offer one another, right?
So, why then, would a couple who has nothing in the way of material possessions decide to get married?
Perhaps is has something to do with the human spirit.
When Mark and Nan were evicted what they lost was a place to live – a place to call home.
They didn’t lose their capacity to care. They didn’t lose their need for companionship. They didn’t lose their sense of loyalty to one another. They certainly didn’t lose their ability to love."
Tragically, their life together as husband and wife came to an abrupt end this past week.
An article in the Brandon News & Tribune this past Friday reported that Mark had died on Thursday (May 13) after having been diagnosed with a terminal illness several weeks ago.
Homeless advocate, Lela Liliquist, of the Portamento of Hope Café (a soup kitchen and resource center) said, "It’s a shame they never made it into an apartment."
It would have been a wonderful coda to their story had they’d been able to re-acquire housing before Mark’s passing. It would have fulfilled his dream of having had a place to care for Nan — who has a brain aneurysm and emphysema.
Mark and Nan’s marriage may have been short-lived. But their love and commitment to one another over the course of their 14-year relationship, speaks volumes of their character — and the human spirit — despite the adversities they faced.
And, there’s a lesson to be learned there for all of us.
Often times, when we see persons who are experiencing homelessness, we do not stop to think of them as being a part of our communities. We don’t give them the same considerations that we do to those who are housed. Furthermore, most times, we see them as an infringement on the rest of society.
But how often do we pause to think of them as human beings just like the rest of us?
We have allowed our collective social mindset to become so polluted by stereotypes that we fail to recognize a basic and fundamental truth: the homeless are people.
They experience the same range of emotional and psychological needs that the rest of us do.
The condition known as homelessness deprives them of housing. But, does that give the rest of us the right to deprive them of being treated with basic human dignity? And, doesn’t treating the homeless in a disparaging manner speak ill of us as a society?
To once again quote Tracey Crocker, a volunteer at the Homeless Coalition of Hillsborough County,
"Nobody woke up one day and said, ‘I want to be homeless.’ They have feelings and hopes and dreams just like everyone else. And they fall in love just like everyone else."
To many within the community around them, Mark and Nan may have been just another couple of homeless people who weren’t worthy of notice.
But to one another, they were friends. They were partners. They were husband and wife. And, equally important: they were people who could love and rely on one another.
You have my deepest and most heartfelt condolences.
You are in my thoughts and prayers.
- m -