Miley Cyrus did what most of us will never be able to do: She took the opportunity to give voice and a face to homeless youth on one of this generation's most prominent music platforms, the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs).
Miley grew up in the industry, so walking the red carpet and having VIP access to some of the most watched performers and personalities, including Beyonce Knowles, this year's MTV Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award winner, Maroon 5, Nicki Minaj, Iggy Azalea, Snoop Dogg, and Taylor Swift on August 24, 2014, was nothing new.
What made Miley's appearance so incredible was that she was able to use her mass appeal and ability to create controversy in a way that combined both class and compassion for those who are often the least understood and least respected.
Accepting her award, on behalf of the more than 1.5 million homeless youth, was Jesse. Miley's proxy was once homeless. While he made general comments such as, "I've cleaned your rooms...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...," his focus and delivery made the topic easy to digest.
Jesse did a great job in getting the message across.
Perhaps on another stage, if he or Miley had more time, they may have shared how being homeless is a condition or state of not having permanent or stable housing. Homelessness is not, or shouldn't be, a word we use to gauge how we value and treat individuals. The homeless are daughters, sons, mothers and fathers, relatives, families we once knew, former friends and neighbors; most didn't aspire to or imagine they'd become homeless.
Giving Miley props is by no means minimizing the great work that homeless service providers, outreach staff/volunteers and other advocates do; Miley is just able to do it on a larger scale with a wider audience.
Like so many other communities, St. Louis has its share of youth living on the streets and under bridges, sleeping in the parks and bednight shelters, and doubled up on the couches and floors within the homes of family members, friends and strangers.
The good news for teens and others who find themselves homeless in St. Louis is: The City and County are both committed to serving and providing resources for homeless individuals and families. In fact, according to Fox2now, in St. Louis, the number of homeless people decreased by seven percent from last year.
The City of St. Louis' efforts, as highlighted through its Continuum of Care (CoC) partnerships and alliances, provides a comprehensive approach to ending homelessness. To read about the City's services, click here.
To read about Saint Louis County's services, click here.
To access community homeless services, call 314.802.5444 (Voice) or Toll Free 1.866.802.7155. For Hearing or Speech Impaired individuals: 314.802.5348 (TTY).