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Labor and Sex Trafficking Among Homeless Youth: A Ten-City Study Executive Summary

Labor and Sex Trafficking Among Homeless Youth: A Ten-City Study Executive Summary

Between February 2014 and June 2016, researchers from Loyola University New Orleans’s Modern Slavery Research Project (MSRP) were invited by Covenant House International and ten of their individual sites in the United States and Canada to serve as external experts to study the prevalence and nature of human trafficking among homeless youth aged 17 to 25. MSRP researchers interviewed 641 homeless and runaway youth who access services through Covenant House’s network of shelters, transitional living and apartment programs, and drop-in centers. Youth were invited to participate, on a voluntary basis, in a point-intime study about work experience. Semi-structured interviews were conducted using the Human Trafficking Interview and Assessment Measure (HTIAM-14) to assess whether youth had been trafficked for sex or labor in their lifetimes. Youth were interviewed in the following cities: Anchorage, Alaska Atlanta, Georgia Detroit, Michigan Fort Lauderdale, Florida Los Angeles, California New Orleans, Louisiana Oakland, California St. Louis, Missouri Toronto, Ontario Vancouver, British Columbia. 

Runaway and homeless youth shelters and programs should be equipped to meet the needs of trafficked youth because they are able to address the root economic and societal problems that make youth vulnerable to exploitation. With programs directly responsive to the heightened needs of trafficking victims, runaway and homeless youth shelters can effectively help trafficking survivors and prevent other homeless youth from being exploited. We recommend a four-pronged approach that includes prevention, outreach, confidential and inclusive identification, and specialized interventions.

Prevention efforts that focus on job search and job skills programs, housing opportunities, and healthy sexuality/relationships will increase youth resilience to traffickers and exploitation.

Outreach programs and advertising for services should target locations where youth are being approached by those who would exploit them: on social media and online job sites, at bus stops and transportation stations, and at government assistance offices.

Confidential and inclusive identification strategies should be employed by all youth-serving organizations to increase the likelihood that youth will disclose a situation of trafficking and, therefore, provide greater access to specialized services and care. Including men, LGBTQ, and foster care-related vulnerabilities in screening protocols should be standard practice.

Specialized Interventions might include anti-trafficking orientation and drop-in programs, trauma-informed counseling, harm reduction training, and victim relocation networks. 

Country:United States of America
Institution:Loyola University New Orleans
Author:Laura T. Murphy

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Marina Castro-MeirellesMarina Castro-Meirelles

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