Archive for the ‘Homeless’ Category – new homeless vlog – check it out!

Published by November 4th, 2008 in Homeless, My Big Mouth  3 Comments »  

I literally am 7 weeks from being homeless myself, but I had to do something – so I started a vlog that will hopefully keep the homeless conversation going by telling their story

Technically it could be better. I don’t have anything but this little laptop that is not made to cut video and a small camera. It’s a miracle that the laptop is even allowing me to compress the data. I just took action with what I have. Lots of people in my situation would either do nothing, or just think of themselves. That is not a bad thing because when one is in survival mode, worried about the basic necessities like food and shelter, it is hard to focus on anything else.

I don’t say that to hype myself, but rather to encourage you to stand up for something you believe in – no matter what! The most effective way to get past your own issues is to help someone else, and if I can put this together with limited resources, you can clean out your closet and take some clothes to a shelter, or cook a meal for someone you know that lost their job, or just simply keep the homeless conversation alive with all of your friends.

I’ve also been twittering about homeless articles/issues and that too has caught some attention

I have no idea where this all will go, but my hope and prayer is this vlog will get you all talking about the homeless issue. For the most part we see videos of all the great stuff NGOs and ministries are doing, and they are all doing a great work. The thing is when all we see is the victory, and we are left with that warm fuzzy feeling we sometimes disconnect and say “wow! that’s cool, I’m glad they are helping the homeless so I don’t have to”.

The problem of homelessness is serious. Very serious! Society wants to categorize the homeless as outcasts, or drug addicts, or mentally ill. The truth is, they are people just like you and me. Yes, people on the streets do drugs. So does your neighbor, your postman, your coworkers, and that mortgage broker who just lost her job. As far as mental illness we all have issues, but before you judge the homeless why not spend a week on the streets eating out of dumpsters and see what it does to your emotional stability.

The first time I was homeless it was the result of many years of drug abuse and bad decisions. I was still a real person and because a church, the Los Angeles Dream Center, had a heart for the hurting they gave me a helping hand to get off the streets. Today I have 15 ½ years completely clean and sober. In 2007 I grossed over $100k. Nov 16, 2007 I had major surgery and my employer let me go on my first week home on disability. At the time I could not even drive so it was not until the first of the year that I was able to look for work. I aggressively looked for work everywhere and anywhere. Both high-end and minimum wage jobs, yet the minimum wage jobs won’t hire you because they know you’ll not stick around, and executive employment can be hard to find. I lived off credit for 9 months increasing my debt to a crisis level. I sold almost everything I had at pennies on the dollar. In June I applied for food stamps because I was out of food and money. In July I accepted a job in Los Angeles and relocated. Unfortunately the move to LA was at reduced pay and a higher cost of living so I could not pay both rent and a mortgage. My house in Missouri still has not sold and is $30k below the loan. I have no choice but to let it go into foreclosure and my credit that I worked so hard to restore is now tanked. Last month my new employer had a massive layoff and I was one of the 25 let go. Last in, first out! Luckily Foursquare really takes care of their people and they gave all of us a very good severance package, but that money runs out in 7 weeks, and right now businesses and nonprofits are downsizing not hiring, and I am out of resources. Once again homelessness is a very close reality for me and my situation is not that unusual in today’s economy. CNN is reporting that 25% of employers plan to have layoffs over the next 12 months. (thanks Brad)

I didn’t say all that for sympathy because I will survive. The point I am trying to make is homelessness can happen to anyone, and by being transparent hopefully you can identify with some part of my story, and the stories of the homeless on

The other reason I am being so open is the more real I am, the more of God you’ll see as I overcome this challenge. We are headed into some exciting times and my hope and prayer is that more people will start giving of themselves to help others.

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WARNING – these videos will mess you up

Published by July 26th, 2008 in Homeless, My Big Mouth  Comments Off on WARNING – these videos will mess you up  

This week I keep getting slapped in the face. I was asked to share my story at AT/DC the other night and as I started to reflect about everything I was just slammed with the seriousness of homelessness, what God has done for me and how very lucky I am to have gotten off the streets and still be able to formulate a sentence.

Yesterday a co-worker asked me to help a friend who was trying to help a homeless person. As I was doing a little research I found these videos and I have been messed up ever since. Yesterday driving home from work and then to and from church each homeless person I saw, and there are many, I could literally feel their pain.

As a TV producer and a fundraiser I feel these videos are excellent. As a person who once lived homeless on the streets of Los Angeles these videos do a very good job of capturing the seriousness of the situation. I hope you take the time to watch more than one, and my prayer is that you will be motivated into action. At the very least please share a link to this post with a friend. You may be a long way from LA yet homelessness will affect you and your neighborhood very soon.

*** there are a very small number of “colorful” words in a few of these videos. If they stop you from viewing, or if you are more offended by such language than the issues facing our nation’s poor, go read a nice and fluffy blog because this ain’t one!

Skid Row Part 1: Introduction

Skid Row Part 2: Kids

Skid Row Part 3: Drugs

Skid Row Part 4: God

Skid Row Part 5: Afterword

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Bless me or bless you?

Published by June 20th, 2008 in Change, Character, Community, Homeless, Just Me, Leadership, Learning, Life's Lessons, Managment, My Big Mouth, Outreach  2 Comments »  

For the last 5 years I have worked in churches that were 75% focused on “bless me bless me” instead of blessing others. It was not until I needed help because I did not have money or food that I consciously saw the fallout from that style of ministry. When people focus on becoming a millionaire their hearts change. When leadership’s primary teaching is about receiving instead of giving, even though helping others is mentioned, giving unselfishly never becomes a priority or a lifestyle. A generous heart cannot grow when a person is constantly praying to receive. 

A short time ago I had to apply for food stamps. Very humbling to say the least! At one point I was down to 3 cans of tuna. I found there are some very unselfish and genuine people in the world and I am in awe of the sacrifice they made to help me out. But none of those people attend a “bless me” church.

I say all that not to criticize the “bless me” churches, but to slap myself in the face! Thank goodness my original Christian foundation came from an outreach focused church because I continue to always put others before me, yet I am not proud of what I did or who I became these last several years. I compromised what I know to be right in so many ways.

Last week a couple handed me a large envelope of cash.  The week before someone filled my fridge and another person paid my mortgage. When I told my best friend he said “God blessed you” yet I disagree! God does not bless with a new car or a fat check. God blesses with challenges that help you grow. We are confused. We all run around seeking “blessings” from God that are for the most part material stuff we’ll end up selling on craigslist. The new car only blesses for a short time as you show off to your neighbors. We are being trained to be selfish “bless me bless me” so we perceive, for the most part, that the only blessings from God are material or financial.

In my adult life the biggest blessings I have ever received where 1) homelessness 2) divorce 3) unexpected unemployment. Why would I say that? Because in each situation I grew to be a better person – I was truly blessed!

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Whatever God!

Published by March 12th, 2008 in Change, Character, Future, Homeless, Just Me, Leadership, Learning, Life's Lessons, My Big Mouth, Personal, Personal Growth, Recovery, Remarkable  1 Comment  

As I was driving to Nashville in a crazy snow storm to speak at NRB I received a devastating phone call. Well, it should have been devastating since I was being delivered some very bad news.

For about the last 10 months I have been through hell. I have been beat down to where there is absolutely no fight left in me. Everything that has happened, all the misunderstandings and whacked perceptions are so weird I cannot even explain it.  The end result is I am now back in extreme debt and I am very close to losing everything – again!

When I was homeless I had nothing to lose. The stress this time is insane and I would be lying if I didn’t admit that the fear sometimes is almost paralyzing.  I don’t dwell on the fear and I always do my best to stay positive, but sometimes it just slaps me in the face.

Now here is what is interesting (at least to me).  As I was driving through that snow storm this past Friday, and hung up the phone after receiving very bad news, I said out loud, “whatever God” with a smile on my face. I had peace about my situation. It was as if I completely surrendered and raised the white flag. 

The National Religious Broadcasters Convention, I thought, would be all business. I never expected to get anything spiritual from the event. I was wrong! Saturday morning a friend talked me into going to hear Phil Vischer speak. Phil is the original creator of Veggie Tales and to be honest, talking vegetables have never done anything for me. I would have never gone to hear Phil without some coaching.

It was amazing and just what I needed to hear.  Phil had everything and then lost everything yet God continues to do an amazing work in his life. There was a God purpose in everything! He has now started Jelly Fish Labs. The name alone is worth going to the session. A jellyfish cannot completely control where it moves. Phil’s talk is encouraging and spiritually enlightening and I highly recommend you buy the CD. RB-S01 Reach Keynote Session – Phil Vischer.

While driving I also listened to a leadership series by Andy Stanley that is probably some of the best teachings I have ever heard.  If you are going to only buy one teaching series in 08 make it this one! It will change your life. Buy it for your pastor, leaders and friends. The church is changing. Leadership is changing! Everyone needs to hear this: The Best of Catalyst – Andy Stanley Buy this teaching and share!

I don’t know what is going to happen in my life. God has stripped me of everything before so I would pay attention and let Him drive. I don’t know if that is the case here, but this last week, in the face of severe darkness, I was blanketed with a peace that could have only come from God.

Whatever God, although scary, is a very good place to be!

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I’m famous in Los Angeles

Published by March 3rd, 2008 in Homeless, Just Me, Learning, Ministry, My Big Mouth, Personal, Recovery  Comments Off on I’m famous in Los Angeles  

I always laugh when I am recognized in Los Angeles. See I moved to LA to get my big break, which I did – I met Jesus.

When I walk down Hollywood Blvd or the Promenade in Santa Monica I am just like everyone else. When I walk around in Skid Row I am recognized and too me that couldn’t be any more perfect!

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Some had too many pieces missing

Published by January 30th, 2008 in Blogs, Change, Character, Friends, Homeless, Internet, Just Me, Learning, Life's Lessons, My Big Mouth, Personal, Personal Growth, Recovery  1 Comment  

Without a shadow of doubt the educator that had the most impact on my life was Professor Amy Sweetman at LACC . She opened my eyes to a whole new world and she will always be one of my all time favorite people.

Amy took it upon herself to teach all of her classes about relationships. It was in her Psychology 1 class that she introduced me to “The Missing Piece Meets The Big O”. One of the best relationship books – ever! It seems like only yesterday when Amy was in front of the class flipping the pages and reading the text out loud. When she got to a certain page she stopped, smiled and then repeated real loud “Markus, some had too many pieces missing! Markus, some had too many pieces missing! Markus , some had too many pieces missing!” At the time I was dating Anne who I eventually married. Almost every paper I would write about her so Amy had lots of knowledge on how toxic our relationship was. Unfortunately, like most people in LOVE, I was blind! Amy even came to the wedding and gave us the book as a wedding present. Too me it was the best gift we received. Thing is, I am still learning the lesson Amy was trying to teach me all those years ago. And I am still learning it the hard way! 🙂

To help you understand here is the book on video although I like the book itself so much more.

Amy is such a gorgeous person and I have so many fond memories I actually wrote far too much to post. Stories of the Power House on Christmas Eve or her asking me to teach Psychology 43 one semester! I even wrote how we both took the class to skid row one thanksgiving. The best thanksgiving of my life was that day! I wrote several pages before I realized that I was starting to get blisters on my fingers and there was no way I was going to post it all.

What prompted all this, and I guess I’ll have to publicly say that I am now grateful for social networking, is I found Amy using Facebook’s friend finder last week. It goes through and checks your contact emails and BAM, there she was! I so miss her…

Amy sent me a link to a book she wrote and published and you would not believe the smile I received when I looked at her webpage and saw it was based off the Big O. It just seemed like it was meant to be. What’s even cooler is The Jagged O Scholarship Fund she started to help those who choose to take the road less traveled – the road of service to others in need! You cannot find a better educational cause then that. Please visit her site and help support this very worthy cause.

CLICK HERE - The Jagged O Scholarship - CLICK HERE

click on the above photo to go to the site

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Christmas cards and no money for stamps

Published by December 12th, 2007 in Change, Friends, Homeless, Just Me, Learning, Life's Lessons, My Big Mouth, Personal, Personal Growth, Recovery, Remarkable  Comments Off on Christmas cards and no money for stamps  

I just drove home from the post office and my memory recalled something I have not thought about in years. 13 years ago I was living in a homeless shelter in Hollywood. For those of you who do not know my story you can watch a short video by clicking here.

Just before Christmas someone gave me a box of Christmas cards. What the heck were they thinking? I am a homeless guy with no money, no income and absolutely no way to purchase stamps. Seriously, kind of a dumb idea and for several days it brought me down. I was depressed that I had no money to buy stamps and upset that someone could be so thoughtless to rub my lack of money in my face!

It was so long ago that I don’t remember how I came to this decision, but instead of looking at what I didn’t have, I started to look at what I had. Ya, there is a similar Bible story but I always try and leave all that to people who are called to teach the Word.

Anyway, on Saturday mornings I would go to an AA meeting in Hollywood. The same meeting where I first felt unconditional love while I was living on the streets! Actually, the same meeting I talk about in my story. What I did is I signed about 60 cards “love Mark” and on the outside I wrote “to you”. There was no way I could know all the peoples names that showed up so I kept it generic. Then one Saturday morning I arrived early and placed a card on each chair. As I remember I had a few second thoughts because I felt rather stupid doing it.

That particular AA meeting is very unique. After a short share by a speaker they do a “round robin” where everyone has to speak at least to say their name. They monitor each person to two minutes or less so the meetings flow, but more importantly people are then encouraged to have clarity of thought and since everyone has to say something, it breaks down walls. I miss that meeting!

Well, when people first arrived they would open the cards and I heard a few comments like how impersonal it was. Then when people started to share almost everyone was touched by the card. Some had tears in their eyes because it was the only Christmas card they would receive that year! For those two hours, one Saturday morning right before Christmas, many people were blessed by simply receiving a card. I am in tears thinking about it and what God has done in my life.

Of course, any good story should have a moral to it. For many people the holiday season is far from joyful. If right now you are looking at what you don’t have, take a second, detach from the problem, and start looking at what you do have. Start looking at how you can give a smile to someone else. It will make a world of difference for both of you!!!

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Laughing until it hurts – literally

Published by November 23rd, 2007 in Character, Community, Friends, Homeless, Learning, Life's Lessons, Ministry, My Big Mouth, Personal, Recovery, Remarkable  Comments Off on Laughing until it hurts – literally  

Thanksgiving meal baby food!On my first day home from the hospital a co-worker had someone deliver a gift bag filled with baby food. I laughed so hard I almost bust a stitch yet I never looked at the flavors. Yesterday a friend brought over a plate of Thanksgiving food and we got to talking. I showed him the gift bag and started to bring the jars out of the bag and noticed they were in Thanksgiving flavors like turkey, squash and sweet potatoes! I laughed so hard it literally hurt!!!

God has blessed me with some amazing friends who are taking great care of me. I am an extremely generous person however, I don’t easily accept generosity. Maybe it is a trust issue because I am so independent having raised myself off the streets of Los Angeles, or maybe because I have been burnt so many times by people! Nevertheless, this has been a great learning experience for me because without a helping hand my recovery from surgery would be much more difficult!

By the way, there is a gorgeous married couple who brought me my favorite Starbucks drink yesterday!!! I will be forever grateful!

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The worst part

Published by November 13th, 2007 in Homeless, Just Me, Ministry, My Big Mouth, Outreach, Personal, Personal Growth  Comments Off on The worst part  

So far what is bothering me the most about having surgery is not being able to participate in our “Hope Outreach”!

I started to think about it on the plane home. Then today it really hit me.

Funny how God changes a heart.

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Video from Hope Outreach

Published by October 26th, 2007 in Homeless, Internet, Just Me, Media, Ministry, My Big Mouth, Outreach, Personal  Comments Off on Video from Hope Outreach  

Video thumbnail. Click to play.
Click To Play

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