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These trans activists wanted to build community. They found each other.

When Mila Hellfyre started college at just 16 years old, she faced challenges. The trans teen growing up in Puerto Rico struggled to get support from her family – and she found herself homeless.

But someone in her community at University of Puerto Rico Rio Piedras gave her a helping hand. "I used to shower at my college, I used to sleep in the benches at my college park," Mila told CBS News. "One day, I had the luck of a community member, they offered me a place to stay and I got my first apartment here. Mind you, I never stopped studying when I went to college at 16. So I was still homeless, studying, trying continue my life because I couldn't give up."

LGBTQ youth were twice as likely to experience homelessness twice as their non-LGBTQ peers, according to a report from Chaplin Hill at the University of Chicago.

But Mila saw her peers trying to help. Someone at her school also offered her a job at the library. And soon, Mila was in a position to give back, too.

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Mila and Nick at the Translucent Clinic, which provides healthcare and information to the LGBTQ community. Mila Hellfyre

"Two years later, when I turned 18, I started a project called House of Hellfyre and it was a community-based project where I gave housing to 22 people that were also queer youth and queer adults that were experiencing homelessness," she said.

In a few short years, she went from feeling unsupported to realizing she did have a family — one she built.

Mila ended up closing House of Hellfyre when everyone she was housing found permanent places to live. But she never stopped advocating for the trans community.

And that's how she met her partner, Nick Alicea, who was in Minnesota receiving gender-affirming treatment but enrolled in an esthetician program in Puerto Rico. Nick didn't know many people in the area, so he started getting involved in trans advocacy.

"When I met Mila, who had been an activist for years, it gave me the strength to keep fighting for us and our rights," Nick told CBS News in Spanish. "She's very brave because she did not have it easy in her life and she's still here, keeping on the fight for herself and for all of us."

The pair got involved with the Human Rights Campaign to advocate for trans youth in Puerto Rico, teaching them about how HIV and health inequities affect their community. 

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Mila and Nick packing free HIV testing kits for the LGBTQ community on National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day Mila Hellfyre

Mila is also working to show trans Puerto Ricans they're not alone by compiling an archive on the history of trans trailblazers on the island. 

She cites Mami Ruddy, who opened her house to those in the LGBTQ community who need a home, as one of her role models. And she says she now feels like a mother to all the people she helped find housing.

"You're not alone. There are lots of people who wish to help us, and they do it with a lot of love," said Nick. "It's important to find people who will support you, who will value you and who will love you. They can be inside our outside your family."

Mila and Nick will move to Minnesota to complete their treatment and Mila is continuing her studies at University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. They also plan to continue their advocacy there. 

When Nick and Mila met about a year ago, they wanted to find community — what they found was a family, and each other.

"I would definitely say when I met Nick, it definitely complimented everything else in my life," Mila said. "And I believe we now are one big happy family. Family is what you build, family is not what you're given. So, I would say look for your own family, build your own space and live your life with the people that you love."

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