• Adult Children Exposed to Domestic Violence
  • Runaway & Homeless Youth Toolkit
  • Prevent Intimate Partner Violence
  • Violence Against Women Resource Library
  • Domestic Violence and Housing Technical Assistance Consortium
  • Domestic Violence Awareness Project
  • Building Comprehensive Solutions
  • National Resource Center on Domestic Violence

Challenges to Service Delivery

Community-based service providers who work with young people who have experienced sex trafficking face multiple challenges in their work with young people involved in trading sex. The needs of these youth are not contained to 9 to 5 business hours. When programs do not have 24-hour capabilities, their ability to address the needs of these young people are compromised. Coordinating care with other social service providers as well as those within the child welfare and juvenile justice systems offers its challenges. For some, it is the absence of appropriate services that is the most challenging. Meeting the housing and employment needs of this group of young people are the two challenges that are the most frequently cited by providers and youth alike, are meeting the housing and employment needs of this group of young people.

Housing is one of the most often cited needs of young people who trade sex. Case managers have reported that many of the young people with whom they work want to remain outside the purview of child welfare (Lutnick, 2013). Consequently, some young people who are homeless preferred to stay on the streets or in less than ideal living situations with parents, guardians and intimate partners than take the risk of entering a shelter and being brought to the attention of child welfare. Although housing is a widely acknowledged need, a chronic shortage of beds available for youth exists (Schwartz, 2009), and the housing and shelter provisions of policies are routinely go unfunded.

The problem is that of the like 3,800 homeless youth in [New York City] on any given night that are on the street, there are only 207 available beds” (Lutnick, 2013).

One of the other most challenging needs of young people is assisting them in securing viable employment. Many of these youth have minimal to no previous legal work experience. Most have not graduated high school or obtained a GED. Because some of these young people have made seemingly large amounts of money in a short amount of time through trading sex, some do not consider entry-level jobs to offer a living wage.

[S]he wants a job that she could live off of.  She doesn’t want to go work at McDonald’s… you can’t live off of that anyway so there’s not much motivation” (Lutnick, 2013).

In addition to funding youth shelters, creating affordable and accessible housing options for young people, as well as viable employment opportunities, service providers have also identified the lack of other prevention work as an issue (Mason, 2013; Lutnick, 2013). Until attention is shifted to the circumstances people experience prior to trading sex such as poverty, homelessness, unemployment, family and community violence, and other forms of structural violence, programs will continue to struggle to meet the needs of this population. A more effective use of resources may require focusing on the points of overlap young people who trade sex share with other marginalized groups such as those who are homeless, living in poverty, child welfare involved and LGBTQ (Lutnick, 2013).

Service Strategies

As referenced in the Introduction, the Office for Victims of Crime hosted a webinar in January 2013 entitled, “Providing services to runaway youth and victims of human trafficking”. Danny Stewart (Director of Operations for Safe Horizon’s Streetwork Project) and Fionna Mason (Supervising Social Worker for Safe Horizon's Anti-Trafficking Program) offered key advice for working with young people who are homeless and involved in the sex trade. Some of their recommendations include:

“ …create safe, supportive and welcoming environments that focus on relationship building, fostering trust, and reparations that help to heal and mend the damage and trauma experienced by youth.” Stewart (2013).

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