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Charlotte Air Force veteran uses past addiction, homelessness to help others

Published: Jul. 21, 2021 at 10:36 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Ron Clark lost everything.

While serving our country in the Air Force, a drug addiction created a domino effect. In 1983, he says, while stationed in Florida, crack cocaine changed his life.

“It became my everything until March 15, 2010, here in Charlotte, right on Tryon Street, I crawled out under that bridge, it was about 7-7:30 that morning -- we remember those kind of events -- and I surrendered,” Clark said.

Clark is currently the community services manager at the Camino Center in Charlotte.

Throughout the 21 years he battled his addiction, he also found himself incarcerated and homeless. Abandoned homes, cars, bushes and under bridges, it didn’t matter.

“Everything I owned was in two 7-Eleven bags in the bushes,” he said.

Clark credits a treatment center for helping turn his life around.

To pay it forward, he’s now doing the same at the Camino Center.

“A lot of people are without hope, or the stigma they have “once an addict, always an addict” or “once a person with mental health challenges” is always going to be like that, I want to be the example that is a myth and there is no truth to it,” he said.

In three months at the center, he’s already made a difference. The center helps all people, including low-income families with programs and services. Homeless outreach is one of those services.

“Being able to see someone who has become highly successful, an authority in the state, he can stand beside somebody and say ‘hey I came from where you came from,’ it gives this vision and it says, ‘wow, look what I can do,’” said Rusty Price, Founder and CEO of Camino.

From helping others overcome substance abuse, to advocating for the homeless, Clark says he’s fulfilling a dream.

“I had to go through something to be the person I am today,” he added.

Resources to get help if you’re battling an addiction or homelessness

Camino Center

SAMHSA National Helpline

Mecklenburg County Homeless Services

Housing for Veterans

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