Tribune-Courier News Reporter
For most people homelessness in America evokes images of soup lines and down-on-their-luck vagrants sleeping under cardboard boxes on city streets.
But homelessness exists in rural America. In fact, it exists in Marshall County.
It’s been said that we are all one life event away from homelessness and for Wayne Maroney and his 10-year old son that life event was a family feud over his mother’s estate that sent him packing from her home in rural eastern Tennessee after her death.
Earlier this year Maroney, 60, and his son found themselves pitching tents near a wooded area off Mason Myers Ln. in Marshall County on land owned by Dennis Henson, father of a long-time friend Renee Henson.
Maroney and his son, who is by blood his grandson whom he legally adopted five years ago, set up camp in the field, used coolers for refrigeration and hung mosquito netting to protect themselves from this summer’s invasion of the blood thirsty insects.
With little access to running water and electricity, they spent most of May through July surviving in circumstances that most could not imagine.
Maroney said he never expected to come to a point in his life that he would have to live in a tent, but because of a series of unfortunate circumstances he and his son had no other choice.
A number of Marshall County organizations and individuals have come to the aid of the Maroney’s and donated a rudimentary shelter in mid-July so that the pair would have a roof over their heads as winter approaches.
Last week a group of volunteers worked to make the 14-by-40 foot structure livable by installing a septic tank, running water, walls, electricity and insulation.
About 15 volunteers from Mount Carmel United Methodist Church, the Marshall County Ramp Ministry and others assisted in the effort to put a roof over the Maroney’s heads.
“People throughout this county and surrounding counties have poured out their love and support so that we could have a home to live in,” he said choking back tears. “It’s been rough, but God only puts you through what you can bear. I’d like to have been able to do things differently, but it makes you stronger – even stronger in the Lord.”
Volunteers were back at the home on Saturday to finish the walls and the bathroom; Maroney said without their help the building would have never come along so quickly.
Maroney is disabled, suffering from diabetes, neuropathy and a crippling herniated disc in his back. The combination of conditions leaves him weak and unable to do much of the work that was needed to make the structure livable.
“Even with the way things are now I’m two years ahead of schedule on the construction of this building,” he said. “I can’t even come up with enough ‘thank you’s’ for the people of this area. If I work too much or walk too far I get exhausted and am in pain. Between all the crying and praying the pain eased up enough I could go to bed last night.”
Maroney’s son is now enrolled in elementary school in the Marshall County School District. He has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and has also been diagnosed with a bipolar disorder.
“He’s a sweet little boy. He loves to go to school, and he loves to play. He even loves to read. He’ll check out two to three books at a time and he reads them to me,” he said. “The only thing I ever really read for myself is my Bible.”
Maroney finds fellowship and nourishment each day at Marcella’s Kitchen in Draffenville. With friends and the rest of his family still in Tennessee, Maroney has found the ministry provides much more than just physical nourishment.
“Without the brothers and sisters at the church I wouldn’t have many people to talk to,” he said. “Family is priceless, you never realize how important it is until it’s gone.”
Maroney is estranged from his brother who still lives in eastern Tennessee and his mother and father are both deceased. His own son, his adopted son’s biological father, has issues with drugs and is incapable of taking care of the boy and his two younger sisters.
Maroney has custody of the two girls as well, but because there was no place for them to live in Marshall County at the time they are living with Renee Henson in eastern Tennessee. Maroney said he hopes to add on to the home they have now so that the two girls can eventually join him in Marshall County.
“Some people have so much and they don’t think about how blessed they are,” he said. “Sometimes you have a lot less, like we do now. I never expected this. If it weren’t for the help I’ve received – I don’t know what I would’ve done. All of this is God’s blessing.”
If you would like to make a donation to Maroney and his son, you can contact the Mount Carmel United Methodist Church for more information at 270-354-8067.