The pop star made waves when she had Jesse Helt give her acceptance speech, using it as a platform to shed light on homelessness in Los Angeles.
“I’ve survived in shelters all over,” he said at Sunday’s award show as Cyrus cried. “Though I may have been invisible to you in the street, I have the same dreams as many of you.”
Court documents obtained by PEOPLE show a more complicated story. Authorities issued an arrest warrant for Helt in November 2011 after he violated his probation for the third time, handing him a six-month suspended jail sentence if he tripped up again.
The probation stems from an incident in October 2010, when he tried to rob the home of a man who he said sold him bad marijuana. Helt pleaded guilty and was convicted of attempted burglary and criminal mischief.
As of November 2011, Helt owed more than $1,800 to the courts and needed to complete 48 more hours of community service.
But Cyrus says their cause shouldn’t be cast aside because of Helt’s history. She flew him home to reunite with his family and is helping him with legal support, a source close to the situation tells PEOPLE. And in a series of Tweets on Tuesday, she lashed out at headlines focused on his past “instead of covering the issue of youth homelessness.”
“People who are homeless have lived very hard lives. Jesse included,” she posted. “I hope that this can be the start of a national conversation about youth homelessness and how to end it. Does looking down upon the homeless help people excuse their inaction?”
In an interview with PEOPLE, Helt’s mother, Linda Helt, criticized people for “twisting things” and commended Cyrus’s campaign with her son.
“They want people to send in even just $5 to help them get off the street, not aid their behavior,” she said. “Jesse and Miley want to help and have a sincere desire to get out and do something and turn around and help others.”
• Reporting by PATRICK GOMEZ