Largest-Ever Research Study Finds 28% of Surveyed Homeless Youth in Anchorage Are Victims of Human Trafficking
Anchorage, AK (April 17, 2017) — At least one in four homeless youth in Anchorage surveyed in a new study say they are victims of human trafficking. Researchers announced findings today from the largest-ever combined sample of homeless youth in the United States and Canada, including the Covenant House Alaska site in Anchorage.
Youth experiencing homelessness from Covenant House Alaska (CHA) were among those surveyed for the nationwide study. In Anchorage, it was found that 28% of the 65 local respondents had been trafficked for sex, labor, or both. In comparison, researchers found that 19.4% of the interviewed youth in the United States and Canada overall had been trafficked for sex, labor, or both.
“Trafficking happens right under our noses, right here in Anchorage, at the gas stations and grocery stores, in our own hotels,” said Carlette Mack, Interim Executive Director for Covenant House Alaska. “Traffickers prey upon our most vulnerable youth, who are desperate because they are hungry, on the street with no place to stay. They end up trading sex to survive, for basic necessities like food, shelter or warm clothing.”
The study highlights the harsh reality of life on the streets in Anchorage. Of the youth who were trafficked for sex, 77% were homeless at the time. Overall, 27% of the young women interviewed were trafficked for sex; 17% of the young men interviewed were trafficked for sex; and 18% of respondents were trafficked for labor. Though they accounted for just 22% of the respondents interviewed, LGBTQ youth accounted for 46% of the sex trafficking victims.
"The nature of the crime continues to change as sex trafficking becomes more and more profitable,” said Gwen Adams, Executive Director of Priceless, the Anchorage-based anti-trafficking organization and a CHA partner. “We have seen a dramatic increase in girls being recruited, groomed and even blackmailed into servitude through the Internet. Gang or group trafficking is on the rise in Anchorage which leaves victims vulnerable even if their primary trafficker is arrested."
Covenant House Alaska currently partners with Priceless, as well as the Alaska Native Justice Center, AWAIC (Abused Women’s Aid in Crisis) and STAR (Standing Together Against Rape) to help survivors of sex trafficking. Working together, the organizations provide housing, trauma therapy, legal services, medical care and substance abuse help for survivors of severe forms of sex trafficking.
Covenant House Alaska also partners with the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Anchorage in their work to address human trafficking.
“One of the FBI’s top priorities in Alaska, as well as throughout the U.S., is identifying and addressing all forms of human trafficking,” said Marlin Ritzman, Special Agent in Charge for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. “The FBI is committed to a victim-centered investigative approach in which we identify, investigate and convict traffickers and provide needed resources and services to the victims.”
The interviews at Covenant House Alaska were conducted in May 2016 by Dr. Laura Murphy, who heads up the Modern Slavery Research Project at Loyola University New Orleans.
“We found that youth were seeking what we all seek – shelter, work, security – and that traffickers prey on those very needs, “ Murphy said. “When we asked youth what they needed to avoid or escape these situations of forced labor and radical exploitation, they often pointed to the very resources that homeless shelters can and do provide them.”
Nationally, researchers interviewed homeless youth at Covenant House shelters in Anchorage, Atlanta, Detroit, Ft. Lauderdale, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Oakland, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Toronto, Vancouver, and Washington, D.C. Interviews were also conducted with young people at Tumbleweed, one•n•ten, and Native American Connections – all located in Phoenix. Overall, 911 homeless youth were interviewed across 13 cities, including 12 cities where homeless young people accessed services through Covenant House, between February 2014 and March 2017.
Covenant House Alaska is the state’s largest shelter for homeless, abused or trafficked youth. It provides safe refuge, warm meals, and medical, counseling, education and employment services to over 2,300 youth experiencing homelessness each year. Since 1988, CHA has served over 20,000 youth in Alaska with absolute respect and unconditional love.