Dual studies released on Monday found a staggering number of homeless children in the United States are victims of human trafficking.
According to the reports—which were conducted by The Field Center for Children’s Policy, the University of Pennsylvania and the Modern Slavery Research Project at Loyola University (New Orleans)—nearly 20 percent of the 911 homeless youth interviewed claimed to be victims of human trafficking. Fifteen percent claimed to have been trafficked for sex, and 7.4 percent said they were trafficked for labor.
Of the 911 respondents, who were interviewed in 13 cities across the country between February 2014 and March 2017, 19 percent identified themselves as LGBTQ, and an astounding 33.8 percent of the respondents claiming to have been victims of sex trafficking said they were LGBTQ.
The researchers at Loyola University found in 81 percent of the labor-trafficking cases, the youth involved were forced to deal drugs.
“Too many youth are desperate and alone on the streets. Homelessness makes them vulnerable to traffickers,” said Covenant House President Kevin Ryan.
According to a press release promoting the studies, “Covenant House operates the largest network of residences and community service centers for homeless youth across the Americas, reaching more than 46,000 youth every year in 30 cities across six countries.”
“We found that youth were seeking what we all seek—shelter, work, security—and that trafficker preyed on those very needs,” said the Modern Slavery Research Project’s Laura Murphy. “When we asked youth what they needed to avoid or escape these situations of forced labor and radical exploitation, they often pointed to the very resources that homeless shelters can and do provide them. What we need is more resources to support those programs and additional training that help service providers identify and assist those who are most at risk.”
According to The Global Slavery Index, there were an estimated 45.8 million people in some form of modern slavery in 2016. The National Human Trafficking Resource Center reported more than 3,500 cases of sex trafficking in the United States in 2016.
“We don’t have to live in a world where desperate kids are bought and sold,” Ryan said. “If we want to reduce the number of youth who are trafficked, we have to end youth homelessness. We can, we must, and we should.”