Miley Cyrus Makes Youth Homelessness Her 'Issue' So Listen Up, Parents

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It was just last year that Miley Cyrus started a worldwide media frenzy with her twerking debut at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards. And on this year's show, she once again made headlines, but for a completely different reason. When Jimmy Fallon announced that Miley's "Wrecking Ball" had won Video of the Year, she passed on making an acceptance speech. Instead, Miley sent Jesse, a former homeless teen, to deliver an emotional speech about the rising issue of youth homelessness.

Studies have shown that there are over 1.6 million homeless youths in the country today. They're children who have left home, were removed from homes, or who have been kicked out by guardians. And Jesse's story is one of many. Take a look at his powerful statements:

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While much of the show was focused on the wild performances and bitter celebrity feuds, Miley's moment shone a light on a rarely talked about issue. And she's right.

The cause is important.

And it shouldn't have taken Miley to make us take notice. Parents should have been talking about this already.

According to a 2010 study reported by the Hollywood Homeless Youth Partnership, 46 percent of homeless youth report leaving due to family conflict. They either voluntarily left home or were kicked out. Most times, it was a result of a new person joining the family (a boyfriend, girlfriend, or a step-parent); conflict with parents over sexual orientation or gender identity; abuse; or a lack of support from family members.

The numbers get more frightening from there.

An average homeless youth has left the home at 14 years old, and during a single year, there are approximately 380,000 homeless youth under the age of 18.

That's more than a quarter of a million kids out there on the streets.

The early teen years are a time of self-discovery, emotional development, and massive personal growth. It's a period of not only puberty and awareness of oneself (mentally, emotionally, sexually, etc.), but a time when family and personal relationships have a great effect on how a teenager evaluates himself or herself.

More from The Stir: How to Get Your Teen to Talk

So parents, be aware. If there is family conflict or if a new person joins the home, don't discount the child's reaction. Don't chalk it up to "they're just being teenagers, this is what happens," but realize that the transition is a very serious issue.

And if you're at the end of your rope and considering kicking your kid to the curb, step back. Re-evaluate. Find help.

Because worst case scenario, whether the child is forced out or voluntarily chooses to leave, chances are that he or she will be homeless. The statistics are not in their favor.

On the other hand, there are options out there. Family reunification is a big response by many homelessness programs. Many centers already have this as their initial method of intervention, and the National Alliance to End Homelessness is urging more and more programs to take the same approach, especially as a way to prevent homelessness in the first place. The goal is to keep your kid at home, and to help you help them.

So take a page out of Miley's book ... talk to your kids, folks. Hear them out and work with them. Listen to their battles and learn about their personal struggles. Don't be afraid to ask for help -- often the guidance office at your child's high school can point you in the right direction. It's the best way to help make sure they're happy, and staying, at home.

What did you think of Miley's VMA acceptance speech?

 

Image via mileycyrus/Instagram

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