Finding Shelter Is a Laughing Matter

Mark Roman Empire
5 min readDec 5, 2019


I’m building an empire. That’s what it takes. Otherwise humans like my friend Venka and her BFF Will (pictured above) shall remain homeless. In the civilization we built. Our shining “city on a hill”.

The political discussions complicating the homeless epidemic infuriate me. So I will ignore them. The way we ignore the growing numbers of homeless fellow humans on our streets.

I’m an Eagle Scout. Who could never serve in the military. When I was 19 a college expelled me. They vehemently denied it was because I refused to shutter my indie student newspaper. Soon thereafter I discovered via my brother’s Marine Corps recruiting sergeant I was on the FBI’s Subversives List. No valiantly killing for king & country for me. What kind of man am I? And a subversive! I thought I was Sagittarius…

It took me decades and a global financial crisis to discover I’d rather spend my time entertaining people. But I can Eagle Scout up for a friend in need. And if empire was groovy for Lord Baden Powell, who am I to argue?

A casual survey of our grand American scene reveals empire has worked quite well for the Facebook, the Kardashians and mega-church pastors. How much worse can empire in the United States possibly get?

So I’m building MY empire. It’s not for everyone. Is it a joke? Absolutely. Is it helping Venka? Yes. Deal. She finds the money I Venmoed her last night buys mittens and Earl Grey tea, keeping her warm in the old Cutlass. The money came from fans who dig my Lt. Frank character, his “citations” issued to such as Joe Jonas, Kelly Osborne & David Spade. Apparently finding shelter is a laughing matter.

The Mark Roman Empire is looking for heroteers of all backgrounds, situations and abilities. If you find THIS silly, have you even listened to The Daily since Venka suffered a stroke? Back in 2016? It was diagnosed in 2018. Because we have the best damn health care system on the planet.

What’s a “Heroteer”? Glad you asked.

I coined the term back in 2012 when I too struggled with homelessness. My awkward definition: “to freely offer, without condition, to courageously tap one’s inner hero to help another human survive and become a hero as well.”

I donated to Venka’s GoFundMe. I promoted it on my fledgling podcast. (Of course I have a podcast. Doesn’t everyone?) I wrote an article on Medium. I promoted on my social media. I did my part! Right?

Wrong. It wasn’t enough. A year later and Venka is still homeless. As Detective Harry Bosch reminds us, “Everybody counts or nobody counts.” Venka is certainly somebody. She was Operations Manager at Capital Market Funding in Danville in the San Francisco East Bay where I wrote mortgage loans for a moment.

After the Big Short, Venka found herself providing full-time in-home care for her adopted mother, until her death. Venka’s last family member gone. So when Venka suffered a stroke, she had no support system to help her. The proud and quick-witted Viking suddenly found herself in need of a caregiver. Alone. Venka became homeless.

I’d love to Venmo Venka an instant housing solution right now. I can’t. Unlike many charity CEO’s, I do not enjoy a 6-figure salary. And I don’t run a charity. I’m a clown who performs a Don Rickles routine in women’s short shorts and rainbow tactical leg warmers. I’m not even middle class. Not since like 2007. But I get by. I make a living teasing chuckles and being silent scenery that walks while taking direction well in TV and film.

Wondering how I might help Venka while still earning survival income as a working union artist, I took inventory of swag, performance gig possibilities & podcast sponsorships I might offer. I created a menu of choices ranging from $5,000 to $5. By giving 50% of all sales to Venka I can spend time & resources reaching out to everyone I know.

Under this arrangement I can more effectively share with more people how and why Venka needs a home, as well as what I offer as an artist. Even if only 3,000 people kick in only $5, I can sustain my outreach efforts, Venka gets a home, and Heroteers are entertained. Everyone wins!

Or someone can tell Oprah or Ellen or Bloomberg about “Will & Grace 2.0” … and everyone else without a home. Do that and I’ll drop my Heroteer campaign and settle for issuing more citations to citizens sporting shower slippers while grown ass men. I’m probably going about this all wrong, anyway. It’s not what I do. But who else is commanding the cause? To effect?

I hate sales, so please don’t feel any pressure. Seriously. Namaste. No hard feelings, whatever you choose. You might know others who want to hear this story. I’m also putting together a production team for the podcast & videos. Since I loathe sales, some sales pros might be useful in my empire. The success of my Lt. Frank at football tailgates in Los Angeles suggests I’d be better served by a mildly successful SUV salesperson than anyone representing talent in this highly evolved town.

Perhaps you know some of these kinds of professionals who might be a good fit for what I’m doing. That’s why I’m reaching out to everyone in my phone and social media. Not just because we both know you’ll never miss that third macchiato at the Grove.

I’m building an empire of Heroteers. So Venka and Will might finally come home. And if someday you realize the VIP passes to the Mark Roman Empire Celebrity Roast at the Hollywood Bowl only cost $5 back in the day… no. I’m not going to cry for you. Americana. At the Grand. In Glendale.

Nor will the 300. The first 300 Heroteers. Of which (at the moment of this furious crayon scribble) only 295 spots remain.

Finding shelter truly is a laughing matter.


(To learn how to become a Heroteer for as little as $5, as well as the latest info & progress, visit



Mark Roman Empire

“Hero Tears” creator, “Son of Elmer Gantry’s Bitch” poet, expelled student editor, religion survivor, former improv comedian busker “Lt. Frank”, SAG-AFTRA actor