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As I walked into work one morning under a railroad bridge near HUD, I noticed Mark Johnston talking to a homeless man. As HUD’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Special Needs Programs, Mark manages over $2 BILLION in grant programs for homeless individuals and families as well as HUD’s HIV/AIDS housing program. As the Secretary’s lead on veteran’s initiatives, Mark works closely with Ann Oliva and Laure Rawson to make this all happen.
As I walked past, I overheard just bits and pieces of Mark’s conversation: ‘housing’… ‘food’ … ‘shelter.’ When so many of us simply pass by the homeless living on our streets, Mark stopped. I couldn’t help but smile inside.
If you know Mark, you know that he is a humble man and he’ll tell you that he’s just doing his job. But that’s not true. Mark’s the epitome of a public servant, going well above and beyond the call of duty. One by one, he’s literally helping to end homelessness one person at a time. And those efforts have not gone unnoticed.
Today, the Partnership for Public Service named Mark among 32 other finalists for the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medal. Known as the “Oscars” of government service, these “Sammies” highlight public servants who are making a significant contribution to our country. Along with his counterparts at the Department of Veterans Affairs, Mark and the other HUD team members led an effort that reduced veteran homelessness by 12 percent in one year as part of President Obama’s strategic plan to end homelessness. Talk all you want about a big federal strategy, Mark, Ann and Laure are walking the walk and tackling homelessness one person at a time!