Jesse Helt, the homeless man who accompanied Miley Cyrus to Sunday’s MTV Video music awards, is wanted by police in Oregon police. Officers have an outstanding arrest warrant for the 22-year-old from 2011, alleging that he had violated the terms of his probation.
In 2010, Helt was reportedly arrested for breaking and entering the apartment of a man he believed had sold him bad marijuana. Salem police charged him with criminal mischief, criminal trespass and burglary; after pleading guilty to the first two charges, Helt was assigned a 30-day jail sentence and probation.
Some time thereafter, Helt stopped reporting to his probation officer. “He doesn’t make himself available to community supervision, and he takes off,” the director of Polk County’s community corrections department told the Oregonian newspaper. Helt moved to Los Angeles, living on the streets and occasionally receiving help from the homelessness charity My Friend’s Place. That’s where he met Cyrus, during the pop star’s visit on 19 August.
Inspired by Marlon Brando, who used a 1973 Oscar win to make a statement against Hollywood’s exploitation of Native Americans, Cyrus asked Helt to attend the VMAs as her date. When she was announced as winner of video of the year, she sent Helt to make a speech in her stead: “My name is Jesse,” he said. “I am accepting this award on behalf of the 1.6 million runaways and homeless youth in the United States who are starving, lost and scared for their lives right now. I know, because I am one of those people.”
“Jesse’s had ups and downs like anybody else,” his mother, Linda Helt, told the Daily Mail. “He’s a good kid.” She was reportedly visited on Tuesday by officers hoping to find her son; sheriff’s detective John Williams told the family they were still looking for Jesse.
Miley Cyrus used Twitter to call on the public to stop “looking down upon the homeless”. “People who are homeless have lived very hard lives. Jesse included,” she wrote. “The media … [have] chosen to go after Jesse instead of covering the issue of youth homelessness :(” Since Sunday, Cyrus’s online campaign has raised more than $200,000 for My Friend’s Place . “Now is just the beginning for me,” she said in a statement. “We gotta start somewhere.”