Inspired by her experience with homeless drifter-turned national celebrity Jesse Helt last August, Miley Cyrus is up in arms about the number of runaway teens in the United States, and in particular, those within the LGBT community.
The singer is now pledging to do her part in solving the problem, and believes she’s found a solution: The creation of a non-profit to help combat teen homelessness, called the Happy Hippie Foundation.
Cyrus recently spoke with LGBT lifestyle publication Out, where she discussed founding the group, and what she thinks it can do to help struggling gay and lesbian teens.
According to the mag, HHF “rallies young people to fight injustice,” and is doing so with a series of exclusive “Backyard Sessions” shot at her home, with performances from Ariana Grande, punk singer Laura Jane Grace, Joan Jett, and Melanie Sefka.
“I’m fighting for people I don’t know,” she says, “but it’s also a fight for people I do know, and people I’m close to and love,” Miley said of teens living on the streets because of their sexuality.
Twenty-two-year-old Jesse Helt accompanied Cyrus to the MTV Video Music Awards last August, where he accepted her award on behalf of homeless youth.
During his speech, the man said he had “survived in shelters all over. I’ve cleaned your hotel rooms. I’ve been an extra in your movies. I’ve been an extra in your life.”
Shortly thereafter, it was revealed Helt had been wanted in Oregon since 2010, as the result of a probation violation. Despite the embarrassing nature of the man’s legal troubles, Cyrus stood by him, and looked ahead to champion her cause of choice.
“People who are homeless have lived very hard lives. Jesse included,” she wrote on Twitter at the time, before telling her Facebook followers of her she would stay committed to fighting homelessness among youth, especially LGBT teens.
“All these things that I do get all this attention,” she told Out. “But then what do I do once I have everyone’s attention?”
With the pop singer’s pledge to act, comes Happy Hippie, an organization which promises to “cause a scene,” while helping to bring understanding to its members, who will also challenge one another to act as a proponent for the voiceless.
“We know that the people sleeping on the sidewalk could have been us or our closest friends if our lives were just a little bit different,” HHF’s #manifesto reads. “And the people we see sleeping on the sidewalk COULD be our friends if we gave them the chance.”
The page continues: “It’s time for us to speak up for the people in our streets, our cities, our world… It’s time for us to grow our passion, shine bright and change the future… Everyone deserves a safe place to call their home and the chance to make their dreams a reality.”
According to Happy Hippie, 1.6 million youth in the U.S. are homeless each year, 40% of them identify as LGBT, and family rejection is the most common reason LGBT kids experience homelessness. The group also says 25% of homeless youth were previously physically or sexually abused, and nearly one in three transgender people have been turned away from shelters.
“By supporting strategic programs that focus on prevention, immediate needs and awareness, we can change these numbers,” the group promises.
Cyrus told Out she understands the plight of those who have been cast out for their sexual and gender identities, as she too has struggled with traditional gender expectations.
“I didn’t want to be a boy,” she said, before clarifying. “I kind of wanted to be nothing. I don’t relate to what people would say defines a girl or a boy, and I think that’s what I had to understand: Being a girl isn’t what I hate, it’s the box that I get put into.”