March 19, 2018

New White Paper Outlines Key Policy Strategies To Combat Youth Homelessness and Human Trafficking

Washington, D.C. – Today, the National Network for Youth (NN4Y) released the white paper “Responding to Youth Homelessness: A Key Strategy for Preventing Human Trafficking” to outline key policies to prevent youth homelessness and human trafficking. Studies have shown 4.2 million young Americans between the ages of 13 and 25 experience homelessness annually, and 800,000 homeless youths go on to become victims of labor and sex trafficking. The white paper lays out a call to action for how to prevent and tackle homelessness and trafficking and provides recommendations for policymakers, education systems, youth service providers and law enforcement.

“The current state of youth homelessness in our country is unacceptable,” said NN4Y Executive Director Darla Bardine. “When a young person doesn’t have a safe place to sleep at night, he or she becomes significantly more likely to become trafficked for labor or sex. Policymakers, education institutions, law enforcement and local service agencies must work together to ensure that no young person in this country ever experiences homelessness or trafficking. We have to do better for our youngest generation.”

Research finds that homelessness and trafficking occurs across the country in cities, suburbs, rural communities and American Indian reservations. Both young women and men experience high rates of trafficking, as well as LGBTQ and foster care youth. Furthermore, youth who experience homelessness and are victims of sex trafficking are more likely to have future issues with mental health and substance abuse.

As a top priority, the white paper calls on Congress to pass the Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act, which would reauthorize the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act.

Further policy and practice solutions to prevent and address youth homelessness and trafficking, include:

  • Policymakers should reauthorize the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act and the Trafficking Victim Protection Act, as well as pass the Homeless Children and Youth Act.
  • Housing and homelessness services agencies should reduce vulnerability to trafficking, by quickly and appropriately responding to a young person’s homelessness, with a range of options designed to meet the needs of youth and young adults in different circumstances.
  • Child welfare systems should provide services that can allow youth to safely stay with or rejoin family members, when possible, and otherwise provide placements that meet youths’ needs.
  • Education systems should be proactively identifying and providing services to youth experiencing or at risk of homelessness.
  • Behavioral health agencies should provide in-home and residential services from clinicians with appropriate expertise and experience.
  • Justice and law enforcement agencies should ensure youth are not criminalized for survival acts.

The release of the white paper marks the beginning of the fifth annual National Summit on Youth Homelessness and establishes the need for a comprehensive approach to combat youth homelessness.

For more information, visit the National Network for Youth’s website.

Download the white paper summary here.

Download the full white paper here.


The National Network for Youth (NN4Y) has been a public education and policy advocacy organization dedicated to the prevention and eradication of youth homelessness in America for over 40 years. As the largest and most diverse network of its kind, NN4Y mobilizes over 300 members and affiliates — organizations that work on the front lines every day to provide prevention services and respond to runaways and youth experiencing homelessness and human trafficking. Learn more at