CINCINNATI – A Madisonville man walked through downtown Cincinnati in the brutal January cold for only a moment when the fear overcame him.
Dan Powell, previously homeless, was on his way to meet an old friend for dinner. He took the bus from his home, then finished his trip on foot.
It took only a few blocks for the fear of having no shelter to return.
“I thought, ‘where would I go, where would I get food?’” Powell said. “Man, it’s just a horrible, scary feeling.”
It was in that thought he decided to walk the walk.
“I wanted to think of something, and try to raise some money to help keep those scary things from happening,” Powell said.
And that’s how it all began.
Powell struggles to make ends meet, but now has a roof over his head. He lives with his wife and his six children in Madisonville, but he remembers when things weren’t so good.
About 17 years ago, Powell was prescribed pain pills for a toothache. He found himself hooked on the medicine, faced with an addiction battle.
His obsession brought jail time, then parole, and an order to report for rehab at the Hope Center in Lexington, Ky.
“I was homeless at two points because my family lost trust in me and didn’t want me around,” Powell said. “When I was at the Hope Center, I was homeless because I lived in a homeless shelter.”
Powell entered treatment programs for mental wellness and drug rehabilitation in 2010. During a nine-month stay into the next year, he was never allowed to leave.
“That’s when I saw firsthand what homeless people go through,” he said. “They have nowhere to go.”
Powell wants to help, and he’s determined to make a difference.
He is “Walking the Walk” on Saturday, March 1. It’s quite a journey, as Powell mapped out 30 miles from Madisonville to his hometown of Williamsburg. With each step, he hopes to raise awareness and money to help homeless people in Cincinnati.
“At its end, I hope to have opened some minds to the fact that homelessness is a problem that we, as a community, can resolve,” Powell said.
Powell presented “Walking the Walk – 30 Miles of Reflection” to the Greater Cincinnati Coalition for Homelessness and the James Sauls Shelter in Batavia to help spread the word. Every dollar donated to Powell’s cause will go to each organization as they work to eliminate homelessness on Cincinnati’s streets.
“The walk is all about homelessness, and I want to raise as much money as I can so the coalition and James Shauls can do the awesome things they do to help,” Powell said.
Powell’s goal is $1,000. He’s up to $700.
Does he realize that 30 miles is more than a marathon? Sure he does, and he’s been practicing.
“I’ve been walking everyday. I’ve had a few 12-mile and 14-miles walks,” he said.
“I’m not nervous about the walk at all. If I put my mind to something, I do it. I give credit to God and credit to the Hope Center because it changed my outlook on life, and I am confident I can do whatever I put my mind to.”
When Powell reaches the finish line in Williamsburg Park, he’ll have two more reasons to celebrate. By Saturday, Powell will be off probation. Plus, he's seven years sober, and counting.
“When I get off probation, a whole troubled part of my life will be over, and I’ll get my life back together,” Powell said.
As he sees it, you don’t have to lug a backpack and stand on street corners to be considered homeless. There are “couch surfers” who sleep wherever they can and find food from wherever they can just to get by.
Powell’s done his homework. He researched homeless statistics in Cincinnati before planning his walk.
“I estimate 60,000 homeless people in Cincinnati right now, including the couch surfers. The average person takes 2,000 steps per mile, so every step I take will represent a homeless person because there will be 60,000 steps in my walk,” Powell said.
During the 30 mile course, he’ll have a backup walker in case he needs help along the way, but he has no doubt in finishing.
He plans to take his first step at about 5 a.m. and believes the walk will take nine to 12 hours. By starting early, he’ll reach the 30-mile mark while the sun is still shining.
“If I raise a dollar or if I raise a million dollars, I’m walking that walk,” Powell said. “I’m going to help someone.”
Anyone interested in helping Powell reach his goal can donate online through the Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless .