Published On: January 11, 20223.2 min read632 words

I was homeless and forced into trafficking at 18. I bounced from friend to friend and shelter to shelter. I became a mother, got my first apartment, and also got evicted at 19. Despite my efforts to build a brighter future for myself and my daughter [earned an associate’s degree and got a stable job], I am still always denied housing because of my past. I feel as though I am left with the dilemma of living with an abuser or living in various unstable housing situations. Do I really have a choice? Or is youth homelessness and trafficking truly a never-ending cycle?”

— NN4Y National Youth Advisory Committee Member

In September of 2021, the U.S. State Department released its annual Trafficking in Persons Report. This report highlights the many vulnerabilities exposed by the current global pandemic, leading to increased human trafficking within the United States and worldwide. Minority populations felt the negative impacts of the pandemic more so than most and left many in exploitative situations. 

An example: In the U.S., women, particularly women of color, unable to pay for rent due to a loss in income were at high risk of manipulation by landlords for sexual favors or work. Similarly, children at risk of trafficking due to their home environment were forced to stay at home while participating in school online, placing them at a higher risk of abuse. 

We know that homelessness and trafficking occur in every American community, including cities, suburbs, rural communities, and American Indian Reservations.

WHAT NN4Y IS DOING TO END HUMAN TRAFFICKING AND YOUTH HOMELESSNESS

1. Focusing on Prevention
The pathways to sex and labor trafficking are similar to the pathways to homelessness for young people- marked by trauma, systems involvement, and being in vulnerable situations. Focusing on the youth most likely to experience trafficking and homelessness can genuinely address these dual crises. Learn more about the pathways and experiences that lead some youth to be more likely to experience homelessness and/or trafficking.

2. Advocacy
Youth who have been trafficked – sex, labor, or both – don’t often disclose this when they show up to a community-based youth program for services. Many youth providers only find out a young person is a survivor of trafficking months after they are in the program. This demonstrates the need for an open door approach to serving youth. This approach, coupled with bold investments, would dramatically reduce the prevalence and long-term consequences of youth homelessness and human trafficking. To advance this strategy:

Congress should swiftly pass the Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act (RHYTPA) into law. The only federal program targeted at identifying and serving youth and young adults experiencing any form of homelessness and trafficking. Providing comprehensive services and housing options to youth who need it removes youth from situations that make them vulnerable to trafficking and increases communities’ capacity to serve survivors of trafficking. Read all of our recommendations, Responding to Youth Homelessness: A Key Strategy for Preventing Human Trafficking

3. Training of Youth-Serving Agencies
We are thrilled to announce that we have teamed up with the McCain Institute for International Leadership to offer our Certificate on Human Trafficking training as an online certificate program through Arizona State University.

Offered in two sequenced courses, the online Certificate program ensures learners understand the fundamentals of human trafficking and know how to prevent and respond to potential cases of trafficking or exploitation. After the program, learners will be better equipped to screen youth for indicators of trafficking, recognize the signs and symptoms of traumatic stress, and support youth who have experienced trafficking, including connecting them to the appropriate services. 

Learners are eligible for continuing education credits through the National Association of Social Workers upon completion of each course. For more information and enrollment, options visit courses.cpe.asu.edu.