Kids on the Street: The Vulnerability of Homeless Youth to Human Trafficking

Alone

Just for a second, from the comfort of your home, imagine living on the streets of Oklahoma City for a night. You’re thirsty, cold, anxious, and alone. You have no food; you have no place to sleep. While being homeless is a thought that doesn’t pass through most of our minds, over 1,300 people in the Oklahoma City area will be without a roof over their head or a bed to call their own tonight. An estimated 12% of these are under 18 years of age, equaling about 156 homeless children in OKC on any given night (Homeless Alliance).

Vulnerable

Even for adults, being homeless can create feelings of depression, anxiety, isolation, rejection, and questioning of self-worth. As a child, these pains are amplified. At a time in their lives when they need comfort, protection, love, and care, these children must brave the world on their own. On top of the many problems of being homeless, many of the youth are runaways who may be experiencing issues with emotional wounds, drug addictions, identity, or sexuality.

Desperate

With nowhere to call their home, these kids are forced to survive. They must find food, water, and, if possible, shelter. Sure, they could look for a job to achieve these needs, but many times homeless youth are uneducated, inexperienced, and therefore seen as unqualified for the workplace. In hopes of getting off the streets, 1/3 of the youth participate in “survival sex”, or sex in exchange for money, food, shelter, and more (National Network for Youth).

Many times, though, it doesn’t end there. What starts as a one-time desperate event that ensures a bed or meal for the night can soon turn into the children being taken advantage by traffickers who entice them with dreams of provision, safety, and care, only to sell them again and again for their own selfish gain.

Deceived

Whether they engage in survival sex or not, all homeless children struggle to make it. Traffickers can spot the vulnerability of homeless youth and many of the children have their first encounter with a trafficker at this time of desperation. Like a knight in shining armor, a trafficker sweeps in to help them get off the streets. This “savior” will weave a web of lies best suited for each victim’s needs or hopes and dreams.

The trafficker-victim relationship may seem to start as a romance, a job offer, or a promise of a better life. After buying into their savior’s promises, the kids may be sexually abused, drugged, and sold to the public in response to the demand for commercial sex and money. After becoming indebted to their trafficker, the youth are stuck in a vicious cycle of abuse, addiction, and trauma, with no apparent way out. They now have no meaningful connections to the outside world, no money, and no hope.

Thankfully, this doesn’t have to be the path for our homeless youth. We can do something.

How to help

You can help victims of human trafficking become overcomers today by:

  1. Spreading awareness: The trafficking of an individual can be stopped by a single person’s awareness. Help us end sex slavery by sharing this post with your friends. You never know who may come in contact with a victim. Learn the signs, be informed, and be empowered.
  2. Partnering: By choosing to partner with an organization that helps victims of human trafficking or homeless individuals through either volunteer or financial aid, you choose to give hope to homeless children everywhere. Organizations local to Oklahoma City include Beautiful Dream Society, Crossroads Emergency Youth Center, and Sisu Youth.
  3. Praying: Though the issue of human trafficking seems unsurpassable, our God is the god of justice, and through united prayer we can see those in slavery set free.

Laura Loftin, Intern for Beautiful Dream Society

References:

HomelessAlliance.org

Nn4youth.org

Photo credit:

Usnews.com