Homelessness to firefighter: Ogden man shares his journey from off the streets
OGDEN, Utah — Every day at work, Dyllon Ryser gets to help people. Whether it’s fighting fires, providing urgent medical care, or sometimes offering a pep talk on the side.
“Good job. Keep up the hard work, man. Keep your head up, OK,” Ryser said to a man needing first aid. “I know it’s hard out there on the streets.”
All things that he says he loves doing with the Ogden Fire Department.
“Just having that opportunity to see every situation and trying to help somebody is just the greatest.”
But part of what makes Ryser good at what he does is where he used to be.
“I was 10 years old when that happened. My parents divorced and then my dad had nowhere to go, so he became homeless,” he recalls.
The streets of Salt Lake City in the Rio Grande area, that’s where Ryser grew up.
“I had two younger brothers and one older sister. We kind of watched after them,” he said. “My dad was always high on drugs and stuff; we didn’t really get to see my dad a whole lot, so we would panhandle for money.”
But it was around that time out here he had a life-changing experience.
“A fire department gave me like a Gatorade to drink, just when I was like on the streets, and I think right there, that’s when it like me. I was like, ‘Oh! I want to be a firefighter.’” Ryser said.
“Just because what he did, it kind of like inspired me a lot.”
Of course, it would be a number of years before Ryser could make that happen. He eventually got caught panhandling, was put into foster care and later ended up sleeping on the couch at an aunt’s house.
“I found a firefighter program,” and he kept going. Taking the bus to get to that program in Uintah and eventually, he made it.
He even became a homeowner. Thanks in part to the “Own in Ogden” program that helps firefighters with down payments within city limits.
And now he can take care of other family members like his 17-year-old brother, Casey.
“Right now, he lives with me. I’m taking care of him. We kind of grew up on the streets with each other, stuck by each others’ side the whole time,” Ryser said.
Something they’re still doing today. Casey said he always knew his brother would accomplish his goals.
“Yeah, it’s insane. As soon as he said he was going to do it, I knew he was going to do it.”
But this isn’t the only family they have.
Last Christmas, firefighters got donations from the community, gifting Ryser and his brother appliances, a home makeover and much more.
“Not having anywhere to go and the loneliness that was on the streets, to having a big family it’s just, it’s inspiring,” Ryser expresses.
And looking back where he came from, to everything he has now, things we all take for granted, it’s a big deal.
“I’ve never been stable in a home-like right now,” Ryser said, tearing up. “Because it just feels so good you know? But it’s like I have a home and I get to go home every night.”
He said all of it has made him who he is today.
“I don’t think I would change a thing.” And it’s an experience that he passes on to others, as much as he can.
“Don’t stop and keep going, alright? You got this.”
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