“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 associates 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?”
—Sherry, NN4Y National Youth Advisory Council Alumni
Every January NN4Y participates in Human Trafficking Prevention Month, a presidentially designated observance designed to educate the public about human trafficking and the role they can play in preventing and responding to human trafficking.
Unfortunately, there is a close intersection with youth experiences of homelessness and human trafficking. An estimated 4.2 million young people (ages 13-25) experience homelessness annually. Many of those young people also become victims of sex or labor trafficking. Research from numerous studies has found trafficking rates among youth experiencing homelessness ranging from 19% to 40%. Using the lower-end estimate of 1 in 5 youth experiencing homelessness also being trafficked for sex, labor, or both, this means that approximately 800,000 youth each year who experience homelessness are also survivors of trafficking.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ theme for Human Trafficking Prevention Month 2024 is”Activate Connections to Prevent Human Trafficking”. The theme will focus on activating connections to build individual, family, and community resilience to human trafficking. Check out their resources and get involved.
Join NN4Y in preventing and ending human trafficking and youth homelessness
1. Focus on Prevention
The pathways to sex and labor trafficking are very similar to the pathways to homelessness for young people- marked by trauma, systems involvement, and being in vulnerable situations. By focusing on the youth most likely to experience trafficking and homelessness, we can truly 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. Advocate for Policy Change
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. What this demonstrates is the need for an open door approach to serving youth. This approach, coupled with bold investments, would dramatically reduce the prevelance and long-term consequences of both youth homelessness and human trafficking. To advance this strategy:
Congress should swiftly pass into law the Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act (RHYTPA) of 2023 to improve the only federal program targeted to identifying and serving youth and young adults experiencing any form of homelessness and trafficking, the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act. Providing comprehensive services and housing options to youth who need it removes youth from situations that make them vulnerable to trafficking AND also increases communities’ capacity to serve survivors of trafficking. Take action today!
3. Training Youth Serving Agencies
We teamed up with the McCain Institute for International Leadership to offer our Certificate on Human Trafficking trainings 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. At the conclusion of the program, learners will be better equipped to screen youth for indicators of trafficking, recognize the signs and symptoms of traumatic stress, as well as support youth who have experienced trafficking, including connecting them to the appropriate services.
Upon completion of each course, learners are eligible for continuing education credits through the National Association of Social Workers. For more information and enrollment options visit courses.cpe.asu.edu.