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One day last spring, Mark Johnston was walking to work when he came upon a homeless man, and while most people would walk on, Mark stopped and helped the man find stable housing and needed services. Mark is the Acting Assistant Secretary for Community Planning and Development at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. His office is responsible for, among other programs, managing more than $2 billion through programs designed to help homeless individuals and families.

Mark, along with Ann Oliva and Laure Rawson, work closely with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) as part of an ambitious national goal of ending veteran homelessness by 2015. Tonight, Mark and Susan Angell, VA’s Executive Director, Homeless Veterans Initiative and their teams will be awarded the prestigious Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medal by the Partnership for Public Service.

Mark and Susan, along with their respective teams, earned a coveted “Sammie Award” for their leadership in cutting veteran homelessness 12 percent in just one year.

“Whether it’s his strategic vision or his personal touch, Mark is a model for what public service is all about,” says HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. “Mark is the type of person who not only oversees policies to try and get people off the streets but at the same time approaches homeless men and women to offer help. He is literally helping to end homelessness one person at a time.”

“Winning this award is not only an honor for me but for the team of people who have made it their mission to end homelessness. This award not only represents the combined daily efforts of hundreds of employees at HUD and VA but the work of local providers in communities nationwide,” says Mark. “We are making headway and each and every day moving closer to ending the tragedy of having our nations’ heroes sleep on the street.”

Along with Angell’s team at VA, Mark, Ann and Laure are working to ensure homeless veterans and their families receive housing and support services through the HUD-VA Supportive Housing Program (HUD-VASH). Each agency joined forces to figure out how they could use existing programs with HUD-VASH to connect homeless veterans with permanent housing and the services they need.

Through this program, HUD provides targeted housing assistance to homeless veterans while VA offers case management and supportive services. Together, the drop in veteran homelessness is measureable. Read more about progress being made to reduce veteran homelessness in America here.

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