Miley Cyrus is a household name. She’s a pop superstar who has made a living performing on television shows and on stage in front of large crowds. She’s had many experiences in her young life but perhaps one of the most eye-opening experiences she’s had thus far was during a recent visit to My Friend’s Place, a homeless youth shelter in Los Angeles.
Cyrus is now lending her voice to advocate on behalf of homeless youth in America. During the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards on Sunday night, Cyrus won the award for Video of the Year. Instead of accepting the trophy herself, Cyrus sent a young man named Jesse to accept the award and raise awareness for homeless youth.
He read his statements from note cards:
“My name is Jesse and I am accepting this award on behalf of the 1.6 million runaways and homeless youth in the United States who are starving, lost and scared for their lives right now. I know this because I am one of these people. I survived in shelters all over the city. I’ve cleaned your hotel rooms, I’ve been an extra in your movies, I’ve been an extra in your life. Though I may have been invisible to you on the streets, I have a lot of the same dreams that brought many of you here tonight.”
His speech called attention to the large and growing population of homeless young people in Los Angeles.
“The music industry will make over $7 billion this year, and outside these doors are 54,000 human beings who have no place to call home. If you want to make a powerful change in the world right now, please join us and go to Miley’s Facebook page. A dream you dream alone is only a dream, but a dream you dream together is reality.”
Within the last day, news outlets have reported that Jesse has a police record and an open warrant out for his arrest. It’s important to remain focused on the issue, which is runaway and homeless youth in this country. Regardless of Jesse’s story, youth homelessness is a very real issue and each young person’s experience looks different. Kids may run away from home or become homeless for any number of reasons – physical and sexual abuse, neglect, family conflict, dating violence, bullying, and more. Homeless youth are not bad kids. Unfortunately for most, they’ve experienced loss, violence, trauma and/or other hardships that have left them feeling alone, scared, and lost. Because of this, youth may turn to couch surfing or living on the streets because they feel these are better options than their current situations. It’s up to all of us as individuals and communities to support young people in need. Youth need to know they are valued and have access to safe and supportive resources when dealing with a difficult situation.
This year marks the 40th Anniversary of the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act, which funds programs that help prevent the exploitation of youth on the streets and support reconnection to their families, schools, employment, and housing options. While there is still much work to be done in order to end youth homelessness, it’s important to celebrate the successes and advancements of the past 40 years.
To learn more about runaway and homeless youth and how you can support youth in need, please visit any of the following websites:
National Safe Place Network – www.nspnetwork.org
Safe Place – www.nationalsafeplace.org
National Runaway Safeline – www.1800runaway.org
National Network for Youth – www.nn4youth.org
National Alliance to End Homelessness – http://www.endhomelessness.org/pages/youth