Reaching Deep Within during the COVID-19 pandemic: Peoria leader incapacitated by virus as organization stays afloat

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Only weeks before the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic, Peoria-based Deep Within Rehab launched a capital campaign and had received $90,000 of their $250,000 goal that would allow the nonprofit to buy their property and transition into an Arizona licensed substance abuse treatment facility.

Deep Within provides a safe, clean, drug and alcohol free environment for men living on the street. This includes three meals a day, hygiene items, clothing, employment training and recovery support.

After 15 years of expanding and improving facilities using program revenue on their two-acre property at 91st and Grand avenues, the property owner offered to sell it to Deep Within.

The capital campaign would finally give founders Lee and Cindy Humes the foundation they would need to gain revenue and pass the rehab center on to the next generation.

But then COVID-19 swept in with uncompromising indiscrimination, leaving 775 dead and 15,608 infected in Arizona to date.

The capital campaign came to a halt and then, even worse, Mr. Humes became ill and on April 1 was admitted to the VA Medical Center in central Phoenix.

The next day he was diagnosed with coronavirus.

Since then he has suffered a heart attack, needed dialysis for his kidneys, received a tracheotomy, a gtube and been unresponsive laying silent in the intensive care unit. He no longer has the virus but remains in a coma nearly two months later as of press time Friday.

Due to visitation rules, Ms. Humes has only visited her husband three times.

“Lee has a wonderful nurse, Daniel, who has Face-timed the family so we can ‘talk’ to him, for us to share encouraging words with him,” she said. “Lee remains sedated but I feel that he hears us. We all are waiting for him to wake from the sedation, as this is proving an extremely difficult for him.”

No work

The fundamental roots of Deep Within stem from living a faith-based life and putting in a good, hard day’s work.

But what happens when there are no jobs and much of what you do relies on being gainfully employed?

The Humes, who live on site together and treat their residents like family, say employment is at the core of Deep Within’s mission. The organization is not government funded and the program is maintained with charitable donations and income from residents through their work program, including employment at various venues, such as State Farm Stadium, AkChin Pavilion and Phoenix Rising games.

Ms. Humes, who has taken over operations, said that with the cancellations of events at these venues Deep Within is struggling to stay afloat.

But it is still vital to purchase the property in order to continue the mission, she said.

“Deep Within has always been self sufficient, so this pandemic has been quite difficult to say the least. We strive to move past this and continue working on becoming a licensed facility,” she said. “We will continue to push forward by keeping our faith strong. Our mission has and always be important to us, and we’re not done yet.”

‘Cash flow crunch’

Deep Within has been a staple in Peoria for more than 15 years, meeting a critical and urgent need the Humes say is not being met by any other agency in the West Valley.

It has provided residents more than 185,000 room nights and served more than 530,000 meals. More than 300 group sessions are provided annually, and in the past three years, has offered more than 870 men an alternative to a life of addiction and homelessness.

Despite the pandemic, there continues to be no line between the Humes and their Deep Within family — the organization has not stopped providing services at no cost to its residents, who, in turn, work to help support the ministry.

Ms. Humes said to protect current residents, the organization has temporarily slowed new admissions by about 40%, but has been preparing to support more men when admission is fully resumed to normal.

She said ongoing operating expenses total about $30,000 per month, which includes the property lease, utilities, insurance, payroll and maintenance. Ms. Humes said most expenses continue despite reduced resident population and loss of work opportunities, causing a serious cash flow crunch.

Readers can make a donation at https://deepwithinrehab.com, or 11773 N 91st Ave, Peoria AZ 85345.

Making it work

Deep Within has been surviving thanks to a number of donations ranging from money and food to supplies.

Tricia Quezada, Deep Within program manager and Ms. Humes oldest daughter, said the response has been amazing.

“We are so grateful,” she said. “We are so appreciative of everyone that has shown us love during this challenging time.”

Since the pandemic took hold in the Valley, mobile vendors as well as local restaurants have delivered prepared meals to the facility, Ehlers Family and Polaris Wealth Group hosted a car wash fundraiser May 16, the state of Arizona and Maricopa Association of Governments funded three shipments of supplies ranging from toilet paper to face masks, and churches have supplied food, prayers and ministry to the residents.

Also, the city of Peoria provided two meals from a local restaurant.

Councilwoman Denette Dunn said community is about helping those in need during troubled times.

“Deep Within Rehab and Lee Humes are synonymous with community and what that really means. Peoria is fortunate to have Lee and his wife, Cindy, who are instrumental in facilitating change and rebuilding lives. The men they serve become healthy and productive members of society, filled once again with hope and purpose,” she said. “I pray Lee has a miraculous recovery and can return home to his family and the many he so loves to serve.”

Uncertain future

Mr. Humes now has sepsis and pneumonia and has remained unconscious for more than 50 days.

Doctors have stated that for every day he is admitted, it will require at least three days of rehabilitation. But the family remains upbeat and supportive even though access to their loved one has been minimal.

Ms. Humes said that over a number of weeks her daughter and her three kids have had lunch in the VA parking lot. Each meal ends with a prayer to Mr. Humes.

Her granddaughter, Cadynn, 12, created chalk art to help spread some cheer to health care workers and visitors.

“Her mission is to show Papa and others sick in the hospital that there are others thinking and praying for them,” Ms. Humes said.

Meanwhile medical bills continue to accrue, amounting to what will be an astronomical out-of-pocket bill that Ms. Humes said will put more financial strain on Deep Within.

Their income has been reduced to 10% of what it was before the pandemic. But Ms. Humes remains positive.

“I am completely trusting God for all of this,” she said.

Philip Haldiman can be reached at 623-876-3697, phaldiman@newszap.com, or on Twitter @philiphaldiman.

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