Watch a 23-Year-Old Dancer Re-create Her Experience With Homelessness

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In her teens, artist and dancer Tiffany Rae, now 23 years old, experienced homelessness in New York City. Today, the Brooklyn native lives in New York with her fiancé, but the challenge of living on the streets has stuck with her, so Rae created a film that would raise awareness for, and pay tribute to, the City drop-in center where she once stayed — one of several in the city where anyone aged 14–24 can go for food, clothing, showers, and, if one is available, a bed.

“I just want to reach out to people like me,” Rae told the Cut. “I had a lot of setbacks where I was like, imagine if I’d had the resources I needed.” On December 30, she released the film in hopes of encouraging teens who need them to seek out New York City’s drop-in centers during the holidays, while also urging people to consider donating to or getting involved with the Ali Forney Center for LGBT youth and the AIDS Center of Queens County, two places where she found help. “They need comforters, beds, pillows, they need clothes,” she told the Cut.

The film is set to Janet Jackson’s “Made for Now” and was shot by videographer Alan Tan. It starts at a teen drop-in center, where 25 dancers reenact scenes that Rae experienced during her stays. They wear backpacks and pajamas, play cards, meet with a case worker (played by a real-life New York City case worker), fight, and chat on small beds. A few of them throw food at a girl who’s sitting alone (played by Rae) who puts her headphones on and is transported from the gray-walled drop-in center to a colorful dreamlike state, where everyone wants to dance with her. It’s a joy to watch the way Rae translates a tough time in her life into something that’s so hopeful and positive.

Finding somewhere to sleep can be difficult for teens experiencing homelessness, Rae explained to the Cut, and this is particularly true when the weather is as cold as it will be this week. A controversial  2017 headcount reports that there are about 2,000 unaccompanied, homeless young adults under age 24 who live in New York City, while service providers insist the number is much higher; and as of November, more than 63,000 New Yorkers of all ages sleep in local shelters. Luckily, the Coalition for the Homeless and Legal Aid Society recently introduced bills to the New York City Council that would improve and expand available shelter for people in the situation Rae found herself in just a few years ago.

With this video, Rae wants to highlight the resources that are available and show teens “we are not where we at now. That’s why I dance, because it takes me out of reality sometimes, and I think that’s what’s important — to dream. I think a lot of times we dream and we don’t make the dream reality. I made the concept come true in my head.”

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Watch a 23-Year-Old Dancer’s Experience With Homelessness