The Sun News

Q&A with Marie Driskell

City of residence: Warner Robins

Occupation: Retired civil service

Q: You slept in your car Nov. 14 -- how was it?

A: Cold. And really uncomfortable.

Q: Family Promise’s Nov. 14 Car City event. What was that?

A: An effort to raise funds and bring awareness to homelessness in Houston County. Plus it helped us experience to a very small degree what it’s like. There were about 60 or 70 of us who spent the night in our cars in the parking lot at Central Georgia Technical College on Cohen Walker Drive.

Q: Briefly, what is Family Promise?

A: It’s a local affiliate of a national organization that lets churches provide shelter, meals and support services to families with children who don’t have homes.

Q: Is there really a homeless problem in Houston County?

A: Definitely. Family Promise started here when Shirley Bowen heard there were 360 homeless children enrolled in Houston County schools. I know I never saw homeless people until my husband became a trustee at our church and we came down to it at different times and would see people sleeping in the doorways.

Q: You signed up for Car City back in August. Ever imagine it would be so cold?

A: Not at all! I think it was 30 degrees, but I’m glad it was cold and uncomfortable. That way we felt it and it brought a little more reality and understanding. I laid there and with every complaint that went through my mind I thought, “What do I have to complain about? It’s my choice to be here and in the morning I get to go home and take a hot bath. Homeless people don’t even have the luxury of a cold shower.”

Q: Sleep OK?

A: Better than I thought, I guess. On and off through the night. It was miserable, though.

Q: Car City was a “what if” situation. Still, did you get any insights?

A: When I stretched out in my vehicle and could feel each rib and couldn’t turn and get comfortable, I realized at least I had all the blankets I wanted and wasn’t laying on a freezing street. And I wasn’t worried about someone taking my blanket. It almost embarrasses me to say this, but we had police sitting there and security people watching over us and, in reality, homeless people would be worried about even finding a safe place they could sleep. At least I wasn’t afraid to sleep when I could.

Q: Any other thoughts?

A: Probably most of all, I was thinking how I only had myself to worry about. I didn’t have to worry about my child who was cold and uncomfortable and hungry or possibly in harm’s way. About how I may have failed them or given them the benefits most people have. And I wasn’t alone. I had a friend who stayed with me and I guess a lot of homeless people just feel so alone.

Q: Glad you did it?

A: Of course. Things like this make us look at things we may rather not look at, but we have to. This created awareness. I had a good job at the base and am OK now, but I can’t just hoard my blessings. We’re all responsible to be blessing to others. We have to take some of our blessings and give them away.

Answers may have been edited for length and clarity. Compiled by Michael W. Pannell. Contact him at mwpannell@gmail.com.

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