Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act (S.4916/H.R.8948)
Approximately 4.2 million youth and young adults experience homelessness in the United States each year. Homeless and runaway youth are among those most susceptible to falling victim to human trafficking as their heightened state of vulnerability and the immediate nature of their needs create an ideal situation for perpetrators to exploit. Traffickers often use a youth’s basic needs as leverage to coerce them into exchanging sex acts for food, shelter, clothing, or other basic needs. In fact, recent studies show that nearly one third of homeless and runaway youth have had to engage in sex to survive. In one survey, 24% of youth living on the streets had exchanged sex for money, and 27.5% had exchanged sex for a place to stay. Furthermore, trafficking survivors indicated that shelter was the number one commodity traded in return for sexual activity because traffickers often loiter in areas where homeless youth are known to gather.
The Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act (“RHYTPA”) recently introduced by Congress updates the existing Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (“RHYA”), which has been the primary federal program addressing youth and young adult homelessness for the past 45 years. The RHYA authorizes federal funding for organizations that provide emergency services such as crisis housing, basic life necessities, and other supportive services for youth experiencing homelessness and youth victimized by trafficking. RHYTPA, the current bill before Congress, enhances these essential programs covered by RHYA in order to more comprehensively address the needs of homeless youth. The RHYTPA also specifically provides for resources and services to be directed to youth victims of human trafficking and youth at risk of being trafficked.
- Requires grant recipients who provide temporary or longer-term housing and crisis intervention services to minors to include a statistical summary detailing the prevalence of human trafficking in their annual report.
- Includes services and treatment programs for victims of sexual abuse, trafficking, and gender-based violence as programs that may be considered an acceptable transitional living program to refer a homeless youth to.
- Provides that staff be trained specifically on human trafficking, trauma, sexual abuse, and sexual assault.
- Improves the process for referring youth who have been victims of human trafficking to appropriate mental health services.
- Contact your Congressperson and urge them to support the Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act (S.4916/H.R.8948) to bring vital services to for youth experiencing homelessness and youth victimized by trafficking and exploitation.
- National Network for Youth, Responding to Youth Homelessness: A Key Strategy for Preventing Human Trafficking: https://nn4youth.org/resource/responding-to-youth-homelessness/