STOCKTON – There are more than 300 homeless veterans in Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties according to the Army National Guard. Dignity’s Alcove in Stockton helps at least 42 of those veterans a day and Friday, over their boots, uniforms and camouflage, men and women with the Army National Guard and Combat Vets Motorcycle Association helped paint and clean Dignity’s Alcove’s building.
“If you served your country, you shouldn’t be forgotten, and you should be afforded every opportunity necessary to get you back on your feet,” said Sgt. Ryan Casperson, with the Army National Guard.
Julie Moralez, executive director of Dignity’s Alcove, says her organization helps house dozens of homeless veterans at a time.
“It’s home for them, for at least 18 months, so our goal is to get them back on their feet and in their own place,” said Morales.
It's a place Navy veteran Clementh Johnson has called "home" for the past 16 months.
He says it has helped him mentor young people.
“They need guidance and if they could see someone that’s been through it, maybe they will have a chance to not to go through it and be a lot more successful,” Johnson said.
Johnson says his life hasn’t always been so charmed, before he was staying at Dignity’s Alcove, he was behind bars, serving time for identity theft.
Johnson served aboard the USS Joulett with the U.S. Navy during the Gulf War.
When he was discharged, Johnson says he struggled with PTSD and abused drugs and alcohol to cope.
“You end up getting involved in some wrong things and I think it had a lot to do with going to war,” stated Johnson.
He says it wasn’t until he turned 51 years old while sitting in a jail cell he realized he needed to turn his life around.
“It woke me up,” Johnson expressed.
The work here isn’t just about renovation; volunteers say this is to show veterans that there are people who still care.
“It’s all about helping the vets, getting them off the street, and getting back into society,” said Larry “Mad Dog” Bell with the Combat Vets Motorcycle Association.
Organizers say they are always looking for donations and volunteers; if you’d like to help, contact Dignity’s Alcove at (209) 465-4066.