MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Many of the nation’s men and women have returned after military service and war, but many face the daunting challenge of recovery from substance abuse, homelessness, and a possible life with a disability.

WREG talks with the Alpha Omega Veterans Services of Memphis, which is helping veterans help themselves.

In Memphis, just drive down almost any street or stop at any intersection, and it’s hard not to see a person holding a “veteran, homeless and hungry” sign. Homelessness, coupled with issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD and substance abuse often, affects veterans.

Solutions are being found inside Alpha Omega Veterans Services. The mission here is to be a champion for veterans still at war battling personal issues.

Cordell Walker has been the executive director of Alpha Omega since 1988.

“I’ve always had a compassion to heal, to work with folks, to be a part of the solution,” Walker said. “Our mission is still to serve homeless and disabled military veterans and to reintegrate them back into society. I think we’re a model for that.”

Alpha Omega uses strategic programming, peer mentoring, substance-abuse counseling, temporary housing, and other methods to help with recovery and provide food for the soul.

Veteran Melvin Williams is now head chef at Alpha Omega, a place that also helped him reclaim his life.

“When you’re doing drugs and alcohol, you don’t have a stable place to stay and you’re doing abusive things to yourself and to others. There’s a lot coming with that. It’s a nightmare, really,” Williams said.

Williams was in the U.S. Army’s 11 B infantry for three years. He was in Texas at the Veterans Affairs seeking recovery but relapsed.

“It’s probably the hardest thing I’ve done in my life,” Williams said. “I came here and they had the 12-step program and I stayed here for about a year and went to a transitional house and stayed there another year. So, when I got on my own I decided to still work here because of what Alpha Omega had done for me. I’ve been clean 18 years.”

He now has a recipe to help others.

I see a man who has his own housing, got a comfortable job that I love, and I reestablished my career, and I got a spiritual awakening,” Williams said. “I live for Christ now. I give back to others. I help others.”

Helping veterans is what they do at Alpha Omega.

“If you don’t have any money, you’re still in the program. We’re going to treat you just like family. So, don’t let that encumber you,” Walker said. “Recognize that you are going to have to look at yourself while you’re here. I can’t fix you, but I can give you the tools to make you a better person.”

For more than three decades, Alpha Omega has assisted thousands of veterans in Memphis and the Mid-South.

“Earlier I was talking to you and said we’ve served 14,000 veterans. That doesn’t really include the outreach and drop-in services. These are people that have come in for housing whether they were here for a couple of days or still here with us,” Walker said.

The need to help our veterans is great. It’s one reason Alpha Omega is transforming the former Marine Corps training center on Jackson Avenue into transitional housing and support for homeless and disabled veterans.

It could open as soon as the fall of 2023.

“We are establishing it as our world headquarters. We’ve never had a world headquarters,” Walker said. “We’re going to move the transitional housing facility here, the transitional facility there. It’s going to have amenities we’ve only dreamed of up until now. It’s under construction now. We’ve only got some of the funding necessary, but we’re going to build and keep going and pray that individuals who care about our veterans give to us.”

Alpha Omega also has what it calls a Veterans Urban Farm. It’s a 1.5-acre farm located at their Ball Road facility. The project is designed to provide fresh food, utilize therapeutic gardening and improve the quality of life, especially for veterans suffering from PTSD.

“Veterans out there are proud human beings, and when they do fall off the wagon and they’re seeking help and stuff, reach out and help them,” Williams said.

“Because we’re making things work, and we’re actually saving souls, and what better position to be in than to be on a team where you’re saving lives,” Williams said.