Arizona Giving and Leading: Tumbleweed Center for Youth Development

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Eight, Arizona PBS is airing a documentary, “The Homestretch,” on April 13 that follows the plight of three homeless teens as they struggle to stay in school. The Tumbleweed Center for Youth Development in Phoenix offers help to homeless youth with many issues, including job and education assistance. Cynthia Schuler, CEO of the Tumbleweed Center, will talk about what her organization offers.

Ted Simons: Tonight's edition of "Giving and Leading" looks at an organization that helps homeless youth. Eight Arizona PBS aired a documentary last night that follows the plight of three homeless teenagers struggling to stay in school. The Tumbleweed Center for Youth Development in Phoenix offers help to homeless young people through a variety of services. Cynthia Schuler is the CEO of the Tumbleweed Center and she joins us now. Good to have you here.

Cynthia Schuler: Thank you.

Ted Simons: What exactly is the Tumbleweed Center for Youth Development?

Cynthia Schuler: We are a nonprofit that serves homeless and runaway youth ages 12 to 25. And we have a variety of programs. We have five shelters, four of those are for the 12 to 17-year-olds. We have one that served exclusively 18 to 25-year-olds. That's also a dog friendly shelter. We let them bring pets with them. We have a couple of crisis programs. We do street outreach and also two resource centers, one in Tempe and one in Phoenix. If you're living on the street you can come in and get a shower, food, clothes, hopefully we'll get you to engage in case management so we can start to help you get back on your feet.

Ted Simons: Obviously shelter is a biggie here. Counseling, GED help, Job Services all included?

Cynthia Schuler: We have that. We have a school that does the Job Services, a GED program a community high school. And I have to put my other plug to dog friendly. Both of our resource centers are dog friendly. I don't think people understand, if you're on the street and you have a pet that's your best friend. You're not going to give that dog up to come in and get help when. We found that we started to make our facilities much more dog friendly.

Ted Simons: Very understandable. What about family unification?

Cynthia Schuler: We do a lot of that, particularly our 12 to 17-year-old programs. We really focus on -- let me back up a minute. We do the safe place program here in Maricopa County. If we look at a Kwik-Trip you'll see a safe place sign, it's a triangle. They can call the number, we're out within 30 minutes. We take them to our shelter and we work with the families to get the problem resolved. We have like a 98% success rate reunifying them.

Ted Simons: Are there similar boxes at other stops?

Cynthia Schuler: We have 18 partners at about 16 sites for use around the county. We go into the high school and educate youth, give them cards to take so they know who to call. We get a call every three days from the youths in crisis.

Ted Simons: These call centers, are they drop centers? Safe places? One and the same?

Cynthia Schuler: They say to a Kwik-Trip person, I don't feel safe, Kwik-Trip calls us and we go out and get them.

Ted Simons: What about young adults, they are still teenagers.

Cynthia Schuler: Absolutely. We serve 18 to 25. We serve them until their brains finish developing. The one shelter is specifically for that age group. We also -- and our high school really serves that age group trying to get them back with their GEDs also. We do apartments for youth, apartments for 16 to 18-year-olds who can't live at home and need to start getting independent living skills.

Ted Simons: For those who can't get at home, and maybe it's an abuse parent that can't wait to get their hands back on that child, how do you make sure it's a safe environment? How do you work that line?

Cynthia Schuler: If a child is less than 18 and we don't feel they can go home, we're a mandatory reporter, we have to call CPS. But a lot of times, the family can use a cooling off period. The shelter says you can stay at our shelter at no charge and they can do counseling.

Ted Simons: Let's talk about funding, how much of a challenge?

Cynthia Schuler: When I got to Tumbleweed we had about 90% government funding, our goal is 50%. We are really looking to the community to support us. And it's easy to support, they can give money, we can have a donation center, we take donations and clothes for our youth. They can volunteer, there are all kind of ways people can support us. Government funding is not very secure so we have to move to more community support.

Ted Simons: How did you get involved with Tumbleweed?

Cynthia Schuler: It's funny, I've had a career several places around the country. They had an ad and I answered it and I was hired as the CEO. I've done nonprofit work in the past.

Ted Simons: But you were also involved with juvenile justice, weren't you?

Cynthia Schuler: I am a licensed attorney when I was in Ohio I'm old enough to have had a long career.

Ted Simons: And as far as a future for you, for Tumbleweed? What are you seeing?

Cynthia Schuler: I think there is a brilliant future for tumbleweed. One of the things we're doing for funding is we have a screen print shot a social enterprise. We employ homeless youth and print T-shirts. We encourage people to let us bid and see if we can go competitive. Very good, congratulations on the world you do and your success and best of luck in the future.

Cynthia Schuler: Thank you.

Ted Simons: Thank you.

Ted Simons: Wednesday on "Arizona Horizon" we'll look at how the recent legislation impacted children's issues and how the head start program is doing in its 50th anniversary year. That's at 5:30 and 10:00 on the next "Arizona Horizon." That is it for now. I'm Ted Simons, thank you so much for joining you are, you have a great evening.

Cynthia Schuler:CEO, Tumbleweed Center for Youth Development;

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