Miley CyrusThank you Miley Cyrus, twerking aside, for bringing attention to the plight of the homeless. While the public-at-large view homeless people with apathy, disdain or fear, Miley Cyrus gave Jesse Helt, a handsome 22 year old homeless man, a platform (the MTV Video Music Awards) to speak on behalf of the runaways and homeless youth in the United States who are starving, lost, and scared for their lives.

When the media jumped on the fact that this young homeless man had a brush with the law, they inadvertently raised awareness about the day-to-day survival needs of this subculture. [Helt was arrested in 2010 and accused of breaking into the apartment of a man who had been selling what Helt believed to be bad marijuana. Helt pleaded guilty to misdemeanor criminal mischief and criminal trespass and was sentenced to 30 days in jail and probation. The arrest warrant was issued in November 2011 after he violated probation. Helt moved to Los Angeles and lived on the streets, sometimes in Hollywood homeless center My Friend’s Place, while trying to find work as a model.]Homeless mural

Current statistics indicate that there are anywhere from 600,000 to 1.1 million people homeless in the United States at any given time, although those not included in this census in all likelihood double those numbers. Most homeless people have a substance abuse problem, mental illness or disability. However, a small percentage of homeless due to unemployment (including families with young children), generally find transitional shelter until they are back on their feet.

Several years ago, as a Center for Folk and Community Art project, we worked with homeless and formerly homeless men and women. The initial goal for our project was to provide a creative forum for participants to describe life on the streets, the circumstances that got them there, and all the emotional issues involved. Another goal was to help generate compassion for those homeless people who truly needed and wanted help to re-enter mainstream as a functioning member of society. These are some of their stories.

 

Due to liver problems and Agent JM homelessOrange, my self-medications progressed to illegal drugs which caused my eventual downfall. Through continued therapy, I am beginning to make baby steps, again. J.M., age 59

 

joseluis homelessAs the years started to take hold of me and I found myself all alone. When I gave up and let go, a little voice inside of me reminded me to have faith. JL, age 44

 

ag homelessI am a disabled Vet. I was a firefighter, but because of injuries I can’t do that anymore. I was on the Burial Team. It was my responsibility to present the flag to the widows. A.G., age 51

 

ts homelessWhen I became homeless, it opened my eyes to a lot of things that I had taken for granted. Being homeless was a very unique learning experience in survival. T.S., age 52

 

bettyN homelessAt the end of each day worked, I feel rewarded, joyful and jubilant, knowing that I now have the opportunity to motivate, encourage and empower other people like myself to be the best of their potential. Betty

 

paul w. homelessI would like people to be compassionate and understanding of homeless people because the people who are, or who have been homeless are the people who need love the most. Paul, age 50
gilbert homelessPeople do not like homeless people that sleep on the street and smoke dopeĀ and drink liquor. I want to live my life out as peacefully as I can. I want to go fishing in my old age and live out life like other people do. Gil, age 69
dj homelessWhen I was on drugs, I lived where I could; on the street, in the park, wherever. Some days were okay, but most were hell on earth. Being a woman with no hope was not a good thing. Today, free from the grips of violence, drugs and alcohol, I have my life back and on a ring. D.J., age 44