SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — As he watches his wife and three children play on a beautiful sunny day, Brian Nehring can’t help but think back to where they were a year ago.
“My wife and kids were in a different shelter, and I was living on a tent on the street,” Nehring shared with FOX40.
He’s now counting his blessings that they found salvation at the E. Claire Raley Transitional Living Center.
“We jumped on it, and we’ve been here ever since,” he said.
While growing up in a single-parent household in Fresno, Nehring did everything he could to avoid a life of gangs and temptation.
“I decided to join the Army to get out of that,” Nehring said.
He joined in 1996 and would go on to do one tour in Afghanistan while receiving several medals for achievement and honorable conduct.
But, when Nehring got out in 2010, he struggled to reenter civilian life.
“When it’s time to get out, they help process you for like a month, and then it’s just, ‘You’re out,’ he explained. “And they tell you what to do, but you have to really jump through hoops and go find the resources, and at that time I wasn’t ready to do it.”
Nehring turned to the streets and crystal meth.
He told FOX40 there was one positive thing he did find along the way: his wife Christina.
“When we had our 7-year-old, it was just me and her on the streets living in tents and cars. We were both kind of lost. So we found each other and stuck together through the whole thing, and now it’s paying off good,” Nehring said.
The couple would be homeless with their young children for 10 years until fate decided to give them another chance when Christina found a family-friendly program through the Salvation Army.
“I came down for an interview and I had already been clean over a year. They said, ‘What do you want to do?’ and I said, ‘I wanted my family to go forward,’” Nehring recalled. “I wanted us to go forward in life, and they said, ‘Well, the place can be for you, but you’ve got to want it, want it.’”
“We’ve got to not only help the vets like Brian transition to life, but we’ve got to help these individuals that are in tents transition back into life,” said Ron Marlette, the E. Claire Raley supervisor.
As someone who was once homeless himself, Marlette recognizes how crucial their amenities and services are for families looking to rebuild a broken foundation, but it takes patience and dedication.
“It’s about accountability, you know, holding them accountable. If you say you want to follow this path, we’re going to hold you accountable until you say I’m not going to do this anymore,” Marlette said. “There is an answer to homelessness and poverty. We’ve just got to understand that it is going to take some money and it is going to take a process, and we’ve got to have the holistic programs to get them there.”
Today, Nehring and his wife have jobs, two cars, and he’s even getting his benefits from the VA.
Nehring’s journey proves to the many homeless families on the streets of Sacramento that anything is possible.
“You’ve got to reach out, and there’s help out there, but you’ve got to look for it. And if you really want to get your life together, there’s people out there like this place that can help you,” he said.
To give you a better understanding of the need for these transitional housing services, Marlette says their 38-unit facility is completely full.
If you’d like to help the Salvation Army’s services that help families and veterans like Brian in honor of Big Day of Giving, click or tap here.