“I don’t even want to think about what we would have done without UMOM.” ~ Diane
Diane and her husband, Deshawn, had a good life with their blended family of five kids and one on the way. They were living in the northern Arizona town of Holbrook, where he had a job in the HVAC industry that paid well. They were renting a house that their landlord had agreed to sell to them, and the family was happy and secure.
Then, COVID-19 hit and one after another, the dominoes started falling. Deshawn was laid off and despite his efforts to find work elsewhere, there just weren’t enough jobs in their small town to go around for people who needed them. Out of income and money, the plans they had made to purchase the house fell through and the family was evicted from what they had hoped would be their long-term home.
Out of options, Diane, Deshawn and their children ventured south to the Valley, where they have friends and family, in search of a job for Deshawn and to tap into resources that could help them get back on their feet. Massive COVID layoffs made available jobs nonexistent and their search for an affordable place to live turned up nothing. The family ended up staying in hotels paid for by friends.
Things didn’t get better from there.
Deshawn started to feel sick, unable to walk more than a few steps at a time. Thinking it might be COVID, he stayed in their hotel room so he wouldn’t spread it to anyone else. His condition didn’t improve; the next day, he went into cardiac arrest and was rushed to the emergency room, where doctors initially speculated he had severe COVID. Further tests found he was much sicker than expected: Deshawn was diagnosed with heart failure, which required dramatic changes to his diet and daily medication. It also meant an uncertain future about whether he would ever be able to work again.
Seven months pregnant by then, Diane searched frantically for help. Moving from hotel to hotel, dealing with Deshawn’s health issues and getting closer to delivering the baby, the family stepped up their efforts to find someplace to live longer term until Deshawn’s disability application could be processed. Finally, with a two week old baby and Deshawn still not medically cleared for work, Diane got news she had been waiting to hear: there was a room available for Diane, Deshawn and their four children at UMOM’s family emergency shelter (the two older children are staying with other family members in the Valley).
“I don’t even want to think about what we would have done without UMOM,” she said. “We were so relieved, to be in one place for more than a few weeks at a time.”
For now, Diane is focused on caring for their newborn. Deshawn is still recovering and awaiting word on whether he will be approved for disability or be cleared to find a less physically demanding job. Diane and Deshawn have dreams for the future, to go back to small town life and open a coffee house in Payson.
When she looks back on how they made it through 2020 – which was a less than stellar year for many people – Diane says they took life one day at a time. The most important thing, she says, is that they remained close.
“Staying together was really important. We needed that motivation to do what needed to be done to get through everything.”