Individuals Experiencing Homelessness More Like to Be Victims of Human Trafficking

Preventing Human Trafficking in the Homeless System and Assisting the Housing Needs of Victims

Homeless shelters and public housing authorities managing Housing Choice (Section 8) vouchers frequently intersect with human trafficking victims and perpetrators. 

Housing instability is one of the biggest risk factors of trafficking.
Individuals experiencing homelessness, including subpopulations of the homeless, are particularly vulnerable to being recruited by perpetrators of trafficking.
According to a study of survivors by Polaris
“64% reported being homeless or experiencing unstable housing at the time they were recruited into their trafficking situation. Traffickers are able to exploit potential victims’ fear of sleeping on the street by offering them safe shelter to recruit them into trafficking. LGBTQ+ populations are at an increased risk as well as runaway/homeless youth and some may choose to engage in survival sex to get access to shelter. The National Hotline has also documented cases of traffickers targeting homeless shelters as recruitment grounds.”
To report trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1 (888) 373-7888.  
More must be done to prevent human trafficking including trafficking of indivdiuals of all sexual orientation and age experiencing homelessness.  Polaris has recommendations for housing and homeless systems.  
For example, federal and local governments, private foundations, and individual funders can
  • Increase public and private investments in housing and shelter programs.
  • Study and replicate innovative local housing initiatives.
And shelter systems can publicize housing services for survivors of human trafficking including immigrant survivors.
And now, new resources and guidance is available to assist victims of trafficking who are experiencing homelessness.
The grant, announced on December 3,  supports transitional housing but also short term housing, including rental or utilities payment assistance and assistance with related expenses.
Assitance with the application process is available from the National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS) Response Center at
The Freedom Network Training Institute had created two new resources to offer guidance for navigating the homeless services system and housing needs of human trafficking survivors. Working with survivors of human trafficking it is important to understand how homelessness and housing services, resources and supports can help or harm those experiencing homelessness.
The first brief, “Collaborating with Homeless Shelters to Serve Survivors of Human Trafficking,” focuses on how the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) categorizes survivors of human trafficking for HUD-funded service eligibility. It helps providers serving this population in determining if a shelter is the right fit for every survivor. The brief offers best practices and referrals. The brief also answers the following three frequently asked questions:
  • Are homeless shelters safe for survivors of human trafficking?
  • How can anti-trafficking service providers address the safety concerns of a shelter?
  • How can anti-trafficking service providers advocate for trauma-informed practices for survivors of trafficking within a homeless shelter?
The second brief, “Human Trafficking Housing Options: Housing Choice Voucher Programs” explores the Housing Choice Voucher program as it relates to human trafficking. It explains how the program works, various eligibility requirements through HUD, program requirements and obligations of participants in the program.