Human trafficking is an ever-growing issue that exists across the world and is a crime whose victims tend to be society's most vulnerable.
While there are many factors that can lead to someone becoming vulnerable, research suggests that homelessness can be an influential factor in individuals being targeted by traffickers who may offer a means to survive and a roof over one's head.
Studies have shown that homeless youth are especially vulnerable to being trafficked.
A recent study in 2017, “Labor and Sex Trafficking Among Homeless Youth” showed that nearly one in five (19.4%) of the 911 interviewed youth in Covenant House shelters across 13 cities in the United States and Canada were victims of human trafficking, with 15% having been trafficked for sex, 7.4% trafficked for labor and 3% trafficked for both.
There are many factors involved in youth homelessness which include violence, trauma and abuse. In these circumstances, not having a stable or consistent residence or source of income can make a young person particularly susceptible to the promises of people who would seek to exploit them.
And in Canada, during the cold winter months, having warm refuge from dangerously cold weather can make a young person with a lack of suitable shelter even more vulnerable. The need to have a roof over one's head becomes not just a matter of stability, but an urgent matter of life and death.
According to "The health of street youth: A Canadian perspective", the longer youth are homeless, the more they are exposed to the risks of sexual and economic exploitation and the more likely they are to experience trauma, declining health, nutritional vulnerability, and addictions.
Many youth that find themselves in this position are scared, feel alone, have limited skills and experience to live independently, and typically lack knowledge on how to navigate access to support systems that would assist in them in a healthy transition to the responsibilities of adulthood.