Homeless for 30 Days: Braving the Cold for a Cause

Ryan Riddell has chosen to be homeless this month to raise awareness about homelessness in America.

Last year Ryan Riddell was living in his 2,700-square foot home in Miamisburg, Ohio. But ever since January 1 he's been living in a cargo van parked on the streets of downtown Dayton.

He has chosen to be homeless this month to raise awareness about homelessness in America.

Armed with a portable heater and heavy clothing, 43-year-old Riddell is braving a snowy Ohio winter for 30 days. Meteorologists expect temperatures to dip into the teens this week, with snow showers coming on Monday and Tuesday.

"I never really realized how bad the situation was," Riddell said. "It's eye-opening to see what people who live like this have to go through."

Riddell had been working as a real estate agent and a pastor of the Shelter Community Church of the Nazarene in Dayton. He made enough money for his wife of nine years to be a stay-at-home mom to their three young sons. And he lived with a roof over his head, never worrying about his next meal.

"At the end of the month I'll go back to my home and my family and my life. But these people out here, well, they'll stay here until they get a break," he said.

In the meantime, Riddell is trying his best to simulate homelessness, although he admits his new makeshift home is relatively comfortable.

"My conditions are nothing compared to the ones of these people," he said.

He sleeps on a cot in the back of his van, a beat-up vehicle outfitted with a propane heater, a supply of blankets and a carbon monoxide detector. He spends his days walking the city, meeting individuals and families who call the streets home.

When the weather gets too cold, he'll take temporary refuge in any location possible -- a laundromat, a McDonald's or anywhere else that won't kick him out. He takes two showers a week at a local church, and uses the restroom in public libraries, fast food restaurants and sometimes a small container in his van.

For food, he keeps a supply of canned soup, which he heats up in a convenience store microwave in his van. He also accepts meals from people interested in his cause, as well as invitations to dine at missions and shelters in the city.

Homeless for 30 Days

Still, he hasn't completely separated himself from his normal life. His wife, Beth, comes into the city twice a week to visit with their three sons:Titus, Travis and Tine, ages 3 through 6.

"I'm not sure if the boys really understand what he's doing," Beth said. "They know that Daddy's helping people, but when you're that young it's hard to understand why he's suddenly not home to tuck you in at night."

Riddell misses his family, too.

"That's been the hardest part," Riddell said. "Not seeing my family every day."

While Beth and her children miss Riddell, she still considers her family fortunate.

"I have no room to complain," she said. "My sister-in-law is a military wife. At least I know where my husband is and exactly when he's coming home."

Riddell said that despite the difficulties, this is something he must do. He believes homelessness is an issue his Christian faith has called him to tackle.

"If you look at the scripture, it's there," he said. "In church, we talk about all of this hurting and loss in the world, but what are we really doing about it?"

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