Covenant House New Jersey Studies Human Trafficking of Homeless Youth
On May 19, 2017, The Star-Ledger’s Barry Carter reported in his column that “Covenant House New Jersey studies human trafficking of homeless youth.”
Covenant House New Jersey, which serves 1,000 homeless youth annually in its Newark, Atlantic City and Elizabeth locations partnered on a study about the prevalence of human trafficking among their youth clientele.
The study found that 9.2 percent of Covenant House clients, ages 18 to 22, have experienced sexual and labor exploitation.
Many homeless youth, with no family and friends to turn to must rely on sex trafficking for the basic necessities including food and shelter that most high school and college age youth take for granted.
But numbers that are far more alarming are “When you separate the two categories, 63 percent were victims of sex trafficking and 51.9 percent of labor trafficking, a term covering coerced or fraudulent employment. It’s an area that is often overlooked as a major form of exploitation of homeless youth, the study said.”
“Labor trafficking is affecting this population, and we need to be talking about it more and doing something about it, not just providing shelter and housing for survivors of sex trafficking,” said Makini Chisolm-Straker, an assistant professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Labor trafficking for youth often involves sex trafficking.
Youth, whose names have been changed to protect their privacy, told stories of being sold into sex trafficking. “The common denominator for many of the youth is their history of emotional, physical or sexual abuse. They’ve often witnessed violence and suffered mental abuse and some have attempted suicide.”
“Julio fits this description. For much of his adolescence, he was depressed and contemplated suicide. At age 13 he engaged in ‘survival sex’ — performing sex acts on men for money to buy basic necessities. By the time he was 19, Julio had been admitted to more than 10 psychiatric hospitals. The good news is that he is recovering and has graduated from high school.”
Together, Covenant House and Mount Sinai, its partner in the study, have developed a four-question assessment tool that quickly identifies young people who have been trafficked and those who are at risk. From there, the youths they serve develop trusting relationships with social workers, who help them address their issues.