“KNX FM – Hero of the Week” Rafael Stoneman


Meet Rafael and Leo! Our KNX Heroes of the Week – helping homeless vets find new hope

Whether it’s housing, employment, companionship, or medical care Rafael Stoneman, his dog Leo and the Gold Coast Veterans Foundation team are helping veterans across Southern California get the support they need!

Like many services aimed at helping vets, GCVF is tapped into all valuable services the county offers, but what sets them apart? Rafael says they operate in “crisis response, real-time, so if someone is stranded, and they call, we go pick them up.”

Rafael leads the mobile outreach program, meeting one-on-one with the veterans.

As a formerly homeless veteran himself, Rafael knows firsthand the community’s unique needs, often being called upon to handle the most critical situations.

By his side through it all is Rafael’s 180lb Alaskan Malamute mix, Leo!

Rafael tells KNX reporter Heather Jorden, Leo is a certified service dog who provides a sense of calm when the duo head out searching for vets in need.

Reaching the unreachable, our KNX hero of the week and his big friendly dog are helping homeless vets find new hope.

They are quite the pair. Rafael Stoneman and his dog Leo are helping veterans across southern California find a home, a job, or whatever they need through the Gold Coast Veterans Foundation. Rafael leads the mobile outreach program.

“We basically are plugged into all the resources in the county, but what we do that’s unique, is we do things more in crisis response, real time. So if someone calls and they’re stranded, we go pick them up.”

Rafael is a veteran himself and he’s been through some tough times, so he knows firsthand what many of the people they are helping are going through, whether it’s financial or emotional stress, PTSD, or mental or physical health. And by his side, everyday at work is his buddy, Leo.

“Leo is a 10 and a half year old Alaskan malamute mix, who is 180 pounds.”

So he’s kind of big. Rafael found Leo in a shelter in Pasadena 10 years ago as a puppy. And over the years, Leo has stayed by Rafael’s side and now he’s a registered service dog for Rafael and the vets they support. When the team goes into the margins of society to find Veterans in Need, Leo brings a sense of calm to the situation.

Bob Harris is the executive director of Gold Coast Veterans Foundation and he says, “Rafael and Leo are changing lives,they are saving lives, and Raphael’s dedication is truly making a difference in our community.”

“His story is quite unique. He’s a veteran that was formerly homeless. Came into our office looking for some guidance and some employment. We took a risk that he could indeed become a weapon against veteran homelessness and we hired him specifically for that function. That’s extraordinary because Raphael had just his college degree and he was in a perfect position to go get a high paying job at a social service agency within the county or anyone else. And instead he chose to go back to the very place where he just came from, the place that almost killed him. And when I asked him, why did you do that? He said, ‘I left so many of my brothers and sisters behind. I have to go get them.'”

Rafael Stoneman and his dog Leo are our KNX Heroes of the Week.

“He is an extraordinary individual. He’s risking his life and Leo’s every single time they engage on the street. The majority of our calls coming from county mental health and the local police department, there’s no telling what waits at the end of that alley.”