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Visiting My Friend's Place - homeless center inspired Miley Cyrus' Happy Hippie Foundation




Jermell Foster is a peer advocate at My Friend's Place, a homeless youth center in Hollywood. From 2006 to 2010, Foster was chronically homeless and came to My Friend's Place for support.
Jermell Foster is a peer advocate at My Friend's Place, a homeless youth center in Hollywood. From 2006 to 2010, Foster was chronically homeless and came to My Friend's Place for support. "You instantly feel cared for," he said.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Jermell Foster is a peer advocate at My Friend's Place, a homeless youth center in Hollywood. From 2006 to 2010, Foster was chronically homeless and came to My Friend's Place for support.
Rachael Serrello is a circus coach at My Friend's Place. Miley Cyrus just launched a charity foundation after a visit last summer to the homeless youth center in Hollywood.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Jermell Foster is a peer advocate at My Friend's Place, a homeless youth center in Hollywood. From 2006 to 2010, Foster was chronically homeless and came to My Friend's Place for support.
The schedule for Wednesday, May 13, 2015 is posted in the "Safe Haven" room at My Friend's Place. Activities like yoga and cirque work as stress reduction for the youth that come to MFP.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Jermell Foster is a peer advocate at My Friend's Place, a homeless youth center in Hollywood. From 2006 to 2010, Foster was chronically homeless and came to My Friend's Place for support.
Food and snacks are stored at My Friend's Place. Miley Cyrus helped to bring in $240,000 to MFP to pay for food, clothing and arts programming.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Jermell Foster is a peer advocate at My Friend's Place, a homeless youth center in Hollywood. From 2006 to 2010, Foster was chronically homeless and came to My Friend's Place for support.
Heather Carmichael is the executive director of My Friend's Place in Hollywood. Three murals cover the exterior walls outside MFP, which sits adjacent to an on-ramp to the 101 Freeway.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Jermell Foster is a peer advocate at My Friend's Place, a homeless youth center in Hollywood. From 2006 to 2010, Foster was chronically homeless and came to My Friend's Place for support.
Executive Director Heather Carmichael emphasizes that it's important for many young people to have new, stylish clothes and shoes that represent their personality. Much of the clothing at My Friend's Place is geared towards what youth want to wear.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Jermell Foster is a peer advocate at My Friend's Place, a homeless youth center in Hollywood. From 2006 to 2010, Foster was chronically homeless and came to My Friend's Place for support.
The Hollywood Arts program at My Friend's Place has a goal of job placement in the music, fashion design and other industries.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Jermell Foster is a peer advocate at My Friend's Place, a homeless youth center in Hollywood. From 2006 to 2010, Foster was chronically homeless and came to My Friend's Place for support.
Alan Ascencio is a circus coach at My Friend's Place. The cirque classes are aimed at pushing students to master their fears.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Jermell Foster is a peer advocate at My Friend's Place, a homeless youth center in Hollywood. From 2006 to 2010, Foster was chronically homeless and came to My Friend's Place for support.
A fashion design class begins at My Friend's Place in Hollywood on Wednesday, May 13, 2015.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC


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It's easy to make fun of Miley Cyrus. Just Google "bunny costume" and "twerk."

But Cyrus is serious about her charity work. She just started the Happy Hippie Foundation, to rally "young people to fight injustice facing homeless youth, LGBT youth and other vulnerable populations." Cyrus founded HHF after a visit last summer to a homeless youth center called My Friend's Place.

(Miley Cyrus, thumbs up, with My Friend's Place staff. That's ED Heather Carmichael in the front row, hands on knees. Courtesy My Friend's Place)

Every day, 100 homeless youth between the ages of 12 and 25 - most of them products of our troubled foster care system - come through My Friend's Place, on Hollywood Blvd between Bronson and the 101 in the heart of gritty Hollywood.

KPCC Photographer Maya Sugarman and I toured the center last week, and executive director Heather Carmichael told us Cyrus' tour started a "little bit of a whirlwind" that saw one of the center's clients accept Cyrus' VMA award and make an impassioned speech, and that brought $240,000 to My Friend's Place to pay for food, clothing, and arts programming.

See Jesse's speech at the VMA's

Our tour started at the "safe haven." It's a big busy room that could be the lobby of a youth hostel. A bank of microwaves heat up cheap, calorie-rich food ("We're not farm to table," Carmichael says), there's wi-fi, and dozens of young people moving around in what Carmichael calls "organized chaos."

This is the first point of contact. Carmichael says, "this is where young people come on a daily basis to get their basic needs taken care of, and to have a safe place and sense of community while they're trying to figure out how to move forward." Here, there are no cops rousting the kids and no pimps trying to prostitute them. Here, they can get a shower, four items of clothing, and food ... not to mention every type of social service you can think of, from health care to job counseling.

And here, they can also be kids. Instead of a workout room, for instance, there's a "Cirque" room, created by Cirque du Soleil and Jeunesse du Monde, where young people get exercise, and learn to trust themselves by juggling or walking a tightrope ... and it's no coincidence these are all metaphors for adult life. 

My Friend's Place, which is approaching its 30th anniversary, reports that every year it provides services to 1,400 youth, serves more than 30,000 meals, gets 120 into housing and 90 into jobs.

"I leave every day feeling more filled than when I started the day," Carmichael says. "These young people have such courage and commitment and strength, which is often perceived as anger. This group of young people are way stronger than many of us, and given the right opportunity and support, can become our community leaders, and left on the streets, what would we expect to happen?"