Our Story

“A soldier does not leave their wounded on the battlefield. We consider the streets to be our battlefield, and Operation Dignity’s core mission is to leave no veteran behind.”

Operation Dignity’s founder, Alex McElree, dedicated his life to ensuring that no veteran suffers the indignity of homelessness and isolation upon their return home. After returning from three tours of duty in Vietnam, Alex lost everything. He became homeless and battled alcoholism and trauma from his war experiences.

Once he recognized the acute needs of other homeless veterans, he vowed to do what he could to house and support them. Starting with only his Social Security check, Alex rented a house in Oakland, bought a few beds, and invited homeless veterans to stay while they looked for permanent housing.

When he asked the veterans what they thought the program should be called, they said they wanted a name that combined their pride in their military service with their goal of regaining their dignity and sense of self in civilian life. Operation Dignity was born.

From our pioneering start in 1993, Operation Dignity has grown to provide shelter and transitional or permanent housing to approximately 100 veterans and their families on a given night, and to be Alameda County’s largest provider of transitional housing to veterans. We operate three veteran housing communities in Oakland, Berkeley, and Alameda, each providing comprehensive on-site supportive services to help veterans escape the crisis of homelessness and regain stability and self-sufficiency.

Since 2001, we have also partnered with the City of Oakland to provide street mobile outreach to people who are homeless and living in encampments, in parks, and in other areas not fit for habitation. In 2016, we expanded our street outreach to the City of Alameda as well. Our outreach team is in the field each weekday and serves more than 60 people on a given day.