Acclaimed rapper from Queens gets life back on track after falling on hard times

LOWER EAST SIDE, New York (WABC) -- An acclaimed rapper from Queens has gotten his life back on track after falling on hard times.

Mark Stevenson is now 56 years old and his story is one of struggle and rebuilding. He ended up on the streets a few years after the release of his "Strictly Bizness" album in 1988.

In the late '90s, he lost everything. He spent more than two decades homeless and had no idea he was schizophrenic.

In 2008, an outreach team from Breaking Ground, part of NYC's HOME-STAT program, spotted him and spent the next eight years convincing him to come off the streets.

Finally in 2016, Stevenson moved into temporary housing.

Mara Birkerts was involved in those efforts and said she will never forget the car ride to the shelter.

"We listened to songs and he was really excited to hear the music and so we played it every single time after that," Birkerts said.

The teams have convinced more than 1,500 people to come off the street, including both men and women who have fallen through every social safety net that exists.

"It takes a village to bring someone off the streets, because Breaking Ground was creative and worked with staff in a hospital, worked with friends of Mark, and provided the kind of supportive pathway to build that trust, to bring him back to live inside," said Commissioner Steven Banks with the Department of Social Services.

Through supportive housing, Stevenson now has his own apartment and is taking it all one day at a time after having lost so much.

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