After serving three tours of duty in Iraq with the U.S. Army, Alberto, 37, returned home only to battle homelessness for nearly 10 years.
He had found it extremely difficult to navigate civilian life, resources, and benefits but said he was too “prideful” to seek help.
When his relationship with his family deteriorated, Alberto turned to support groups at the Salvation Army in the City of Bell Gardens and the East Los Angeles Veteran Center, who helped him access disability benefits. However, his internal struggles continued but he started on the road to recovery when a fellow veteran he had befriended died of a drug overdose.
Alberto went back to the Salvation Army, who connected him to the VA, where he was able to access additional resources, including a vocational work program called Compensated Work Therapy. He then started to apply for permanent housing, overcoming obstacles along the way. Now, he is focused on paying it forward, applying for steady employment at the VA and taking a leadership role in veteran support groups.
“Keep your flame lit, and you will never feel darkness,” he said.