Thank 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.]
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 Orange, 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
At 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
I 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
People do not like homeless people that sleep on the street and smoke dope 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
When 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