When Nelson Hurlbert ended up at Deep Within Rehab seven years ago with two duffel bags and their contents to his name, he did not have any intentions of getting clean and sober.
It was not his first attempt at recovery or a recovery center. But, he said, something was different about the faith-based, all-male program that somehow led him to redemption.
While there, he was given the tools to rise above his addiction and eventually go on to live a productive and wonderful life. His experience in the rehabilitation program reminded him of the value of hard work, a key component of the program.
“This was not an easy program but they told us that in the beginning. Nothing worth having ever comes easy,” Mr. Hurlbert said. “Then one day everything just changed. I finally believed in God. After that, everything made sense and everything fell into place.”
Deep Within has been a staple in Peoria for more than 15 years, meeting a critical and urgent need that co-founders Lee and Cindy Humes say is not being met by any other agency in the West Valley.
And now with homelessness as well as alcohol and drug abuse at ever increasing levels, they say it is time for Deep Within to really raise a flag in the region.
After years of expanding and improving facilities using program revenue on their two-acre property at 91st and Grand avenues, home to eight buildings and up to 35 residents, the property owner has offered to sell it to Deep Within.
So the nonprofit has launched a capital campaign to raise $250,000 for a down payment toward the purchase of the property.
Mr. Humes said the shelters downtown are already full and he is asking the public to contribute to a needed cause in the West Valley.
Owning the $1 million property , he said, would allow the organization to transition into an Arizona licensed substance abuse treatment facility and hire a full-time licensed clinical director to facilitate substance abuse groups on-site, while saving $4,000 a month.
This will make a huge impact on the lives Deep Within serves, Mr. Humes said.
“Come on board with me. Surprise, Peoria, El Mirage, Youngtown. We’ll have our space where we can say, ‘we have a place to send you,’” Mr. Humes said.
“What’s the old cliche? We’ll show you how to fish. I can feed you a meal and show you how to do it for the rest of your life. That’s what we’re doing here. We’re showing these guys how to transition from homelessness to productiveness, to be a productive member of society.”
The organization 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.
Mr. Humes, 60, said Deep Within does not receive state or government funding, but instead receives charitable donations and generates revenue through employment opportunities throughout the Valley that its residents, directors and family participate in.
Mr. Humes said residents in his program will work, and there is a 75% success rate. Residents also take part in maintenance and improvements to the property.
Over the years, Mr. Humes said, Deep Within has invested thousands of dollars into improving the property. Updates include air conditioning units, improvements to industrial-grade kitchen appliances, bringing the kitchen up to code, and a fire sprinkler system in the dorm.
At one point, the city of Peoria wanted to condemn the buildings that were riddled with problems ranging from bad wiring to poor plumbing, he said.
“Everything we work for goes back into making sure we are still here tomorrow,” Mr. Humes said. “The race has to be finished and (Deep Within) still has to be here after my days have gone by. We can do more. We’re too good not to be better. Look what we have done so far.”
Councilwoman Vicki Hunt, who represents a southern portion of Peoria and has been associated with Deep Within for 15 years, is familiar with the contributions members of the center have made to the community.
“They are a selfless group committed to helping alcoholics attain and maintain their sobriety through Bible study and hard work. I appreciate their ethic that if you are working hard, you don’t have idle time to think about your problems,” she said.
“I respect their work, and hope they can raise enough money to own their buildings, as the very men they serve have put their own labor into restoring and maintaining them.”
Unsheltered homelessness increased for the sixth year in a row in Maricopa County, according to the annual Point-in-Time Homeless Count.
The homeless population in Peoria increased by 40 individuals from 38 in 2018 to 78 in 2019 — an increase of just over 200%, according to the count.
Countywide, 6,614 people experienced homelessness, 316 more than during the 2018 count.
Mr. Humes said homelessness and addiction are two sides of the same coin — the residents that stay at Deep Within have addiction problems and have been living on the streets.
The organization has been able to capture some of this potential labor and volunteer force and redirect it back to the community.
Deep Within has been working with the city of Peoria Neighborhood Pride Program for more than 10 years to do this.
Neighborhood Specialist Colleen Iliff said Deep Within has done everything from yard work prep to house painting for the betterment of Peoria.
“If I call Lee for help, he always helps with whatever I need,” she said. “Deep Within has been a good friend to this program.”
Most recently Deep Within workers came to the aid of Tabbie Brown, whose elderly mother has been sick with cancer and has been required by her HOA to repaint her home near 103rd and Olive avenues. Deep Within has agreed to provide the labor to paint the home, as well as landscaping maintenance.
Ms. Brown, who has been taking care of her mother, said she is deeply grateful for volunteers from Deep Within, especially since she is on a fixed income with money being spent on doctor’s appointments and cancer treatments.
“They are knowledgeable and extremely helpful. It is a godsend they have shared their expertise and abilities. Labor can be really expensive and they have been more helpful than people could realize,” Ms. Brown said. “Mom doesn’t need to have the stress of having to get her house painted.”
Mr. Hurlburt is now married and has a child.
He says Deep Within is his home away from home and that the program saved his life and allowed him to create another.
Because of Deep Within, Mr. Hurlburt said, he will always have a family and home.
“My life is amazing. Not perfect and definitely not easy, but it is beyond anything I ever thought I could achieve when I showed up there back in 2013,” he said. “I owe everything to that program and the people who have been there day-in and day-out doing God’s work.”
Philip Haldiman can be reached at 623-876-3697, email@example.com, or on Twitter @philiphaldiman.