This Is Us star Jon Huertas is making it his mission to end homelessness.
The actor, who plays Miguel on NBC’s hit sophomore drama, has been a passionate supporter of the cause, due in part to his own personal experience. Though Huertas has been a successful working actor for the past two decades, he pointed to a trying time in his past when he found himself living without a roof over his head.
“I, at one point, for about two weeks, was in my truck with two dogs and all my stuff in the back of my pickup truck covered in a tarp. I didn’t have a roof and I didn’t know how soon I was going to get one and all it took was me reaching out to people I know who care to get me into a different situation. That’s kind of what we have to do as a society, as a community to reach out,” Huertas tells ET. “You can’t look at someone and go, ‘That person’s homeless.’ You don’t know who is and who isn’t. Some people dress like they don’t care and their clothes are tattered; they might live in an apartment somewhere. There are people who dress very nice, but they may live in their car or even crashing on someone’s couch.”
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Huertas has been working closely with United Way, an organization that fights for the health, education and financial stability of every member in every community, for the past several years. This year, he is co-hosting their annual 5K walk/run HomeWalk, alongside pal and former Castle co-star Seamus Dever, which will take place this weekend in Downtown Los Angeles, with the goal of raising $1.5 million.
“Every person on the planet should feel like they belong to a community,” Huertas says. “When I see people on the street that don’t have a home, it worries me that they don’t feel like they are part of society and I know that they create their own micro-community sometimes on the streets but sometimes that can breed violence, transmitted viruses because once they get complacent they can start to ignore their own health, whether it be physical or mental.”
“We, as neighbors, can reach out to let them know that we think about them, that we can help them if they want it,” he continues. “Every day I wake up, I feel like I want to do something for somebody that day, whether it be make them smile, pick something up from the store for them. My duty is to do that with homeless neighbors -- at least give them a smile, at least give them hope that they may one day change their circumstances.”
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As a resident of Venice Beach, California, Huertas says he has first-hand interactions with many of his homeless neighbors and have “gotten to know them and have gotten to know their stories.” According to Huertas, since the first HomeWalk began in 2006, United Way has helped house more than 18,000 people.
“If more people would, instead of walking on the other side of the street when they see the homeless or instead of ignoring that they’re there, would at least say ‘good morning’ or ‘good afternoon’ or say ‘hi’ or ‘how are you doing today,’ the homeless neighbors would understand that they can reach out to maybe change their situation,” he says. “There are places they can go. There are options. But it takes both sides talking to each other to do that.”
Jon Huertas will co-host United Way’s 11th annual 5K walk/run, HomeWalk, with former Castle co-star Seamus Dever on Saturday, Nov. 18 in Downtown L.A.’s Grand Park.