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Center for young homeless adults opens in Phoenix

The Tumbleweed Center for Youth Development's new Emergency Housing Center is shown. (KTAR Photo/Bob McClay)

PHOENIX -- Young people who are homeless in the Valley have a new place to go.

Ribbon-cutting ceremonies were held Thursday on the Tumbleweed Center for Youth Development's new Emergency Housing Center. It has taken an old Travelodge Motel near 32nd Street and Van Buren and refurbished it into housing for homeless youth. They can stay there for 90 days while they try to get their life together.

One of those who is moving in is 22-year-old Benjamin Jensen, who has been homeless for the past five years. He said coming to the Tumbleweed Center is a life-changer for him.

"Now, I can go into a room and sleep on a bed that I haven't slept on for five years," he said. "I can leave my stuff in room. I don't have to worry and actually take everything I have on my back."

Jensen is also excited about other help that Tumbleweed is providing.

"They're going to give me job leads, and then take me to those jobs," he said. "They're going to give me the bus card to get to my appointments. If I have a (job) interview, they're going to give a bus card to get to that."

Tumbleweed will also give residents access to education programs while they're here.

There is one more hurdle to overcome: The hotel has not had electricity in recent months. Electricians are working to wire the building so that the power can be turned as soon as possible. The first residents will move in Friday.

About the Author

Years with the company: I started on January 2, 2006.

Education: I was born in San Antonio, Texas, but we moved to Phoenix when I was one-year-old in 1957. I grew up here and graduated from Alhambra High School and attended Phoenix College.

Family: I live in north Phoenix with my wife Rene' and my son Devin.

Favorite food: Lots of favorite food, but our favorite restaurant is Fajitas.

Favorite spot in Arizona: The Little America Hotel in Flagstaff.

Favorite news memory: We have to go back to October 15, 1979. I was a country music air personality at KROP Radio in Brawley, California, when we had a 6.7 earthquake. Thankfully, there were no deaths and only minor injuries, but the entire community was pretty freaked out and listening to the station on their transistor radios. I would not want to go through an earthquake again, but it sure was a great night to work in radio and see how it can make a difference in people's lives.

First job: Working as a stringer for 'The Arizona Republic' at high school football games. My first real job was flipping burgers at the old Sandy's Hamburgers at 51st Avenue and Indian School Road. My first radio job was as announcer at KALJ radio in Yuma in 1977.

First concert: My Dad took me to see Jimmy Dean at the Arizona State Fairgrounds in the 1960's. It was before the Coliseum was built. The only thing I remember is Jimmy Dean singing his big hit "Big Bad John."

Favorite sports team: Phoenix Roadrunners minor league hockey. My dad took me to a game when I was in grade school, and I was hooked. I wanted to be a radio hockey play-by-play man. I used to take my cassette recorder and sit up in the rafters of the Coliseum and do play-by-play. It was great later in life to also take my son to Roadrunners games. Too bad the team just folded, I'll miss them. (Going to the Coyotes is fun, but they're not "my" team.)

Outside interests: My family and I are active in our church - Shiloh Community Church in Phoenix. Devin is a high school student at Scottsdale Christian Academy. He plays on the baseball, football, and basketball teams and sings in the choir. Obviously, we keep busy trying to go to all his events! We enjoy going to movies, sporting events, and long road trips. We like to vacation at the Beach Cottages in the Pacific Beach area of San Diego. And I love to play catch, basketball, football with my son.


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