Photo by Cheryl Gerber
Every year, public officials and others sleep on the sidewalk outside Covenant House to raise awareness of youth homelessness.
Nearly one in five young people experiencing homelessness were the victims of human trafficking, according to a report
from Loyola University New Orleans' Modern Slavery Research Project. The project team interviewed 641 "homeless and runaway youth" between ages 17-24 who had received care from Covenant House shelters, transitional living centers, apartment programs and drop-in centers at 10 North American cities, including New Orleans.
The report — using a federal definition of human trafficking as "the use of force, fraud or coercion to control victims for the purpose of engaging in labor or sex trade against their will" — found that 19 percent (124 people) of respondents were victims of trafficking. Fourteen percent of respondents were trafficked for sex, and more than half of those victims say they were forced or coerced to do so.
One in five of all cisgender women and one in 10 of all cisgender men interviewed for the project shared a story consistent with what is considered sex trafficking. Nearly a quarter of LGBTQ youth were trafficked for sex, compared to 12 percent of non-LGBTQ youth, and 19 percent of respondents had engaged in "survival sex."
Sixty-eight percent of interviewees who were victims of trafficking or had engaged in survival sex or commercial sex did so while homeless. Interviewees said finding paid work, housing and support systems was rare, and while experiencing homelessness they felt vulnerable to exploitation by sex and labor traffickers.
Nearly all of the respondents (91 percent) said they had been approached by someone "who was offering an opportunity for income that turned into trafficking as well as other offers for commercial sexual exchanges, fraudulent commission based sales, credit card scams, stolen phone sales, and check fraud."
The project recommends four policy changes to address sex trafficking among homeless youth based on "prevention, outreach, confidential identification, and specialized interventions."
Read the full report here