Although Nan Schrack and Mark Neville have been together since the mid-1990s, years of homelessness, unemployment and health problems have made it difficult for the couple to express their love like other couples might: by getting married.
When Neville approached Jim McNeil, a volunteer at a local church, for suggestions on how to raise money to get married, he had no idea the support he and his bride would receive. McNeil collected money from church parishioners to buy wedding rings, convinced a local hair salon to offer the couple free haircuts and found wedding clothes for them to wear. Wednesday afternoon, in an outdoor ceremony attended by the couple's friends, Neville and Schrack finally said their vows.
Now, as a married couple, the future is looking brighter because the pair will finally be able to file for aid that was not previously available to them.
Before too long, hopefully, the couple will also have a place to live, with running water and a roof, said Tracey Crocker, an Americorps*Vista volunteer with the Homeless Coalition of Hillsborough County.
By legally marrying, the couple can apply for programs that can help them get housing together, Crocker said. "A lot of the programs won't allow you to file for one place unless you are legally married," she explained.