Homeless young adults in Arizona remain at risk for human trafficking while resources are depleted

Jan 27, 2022, 4:35 AM
(Pexels Photo)...
(Pexels Photo)
(Pexels Photo)

PHOENIX- As homeless young adults in Arizona are faced with the risk of being trafficked, funding to help them is almost nonexistent in Maricopa County.

A study done by the ASU Office of Sex Trafficking Intervention Research spoke to 89 homeless young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 in Phoenix and Tucson. The report found 40% of them had experienced exploitation from sex or labor trafficking and nearly 50% of them identified as LGBTQ.

Dominique Roe-Sepowitz, director of the Office of Sex Trafficking Intervention Research, said numbers from the report this year are concerning.

“They’re at risk for lots and lots of things, including both sex and labor trafficking, but we’re really extra concerned this year about our LGBTQI Plus youth,” Roe-Sepowitz said.

The survey found that those who did experience some form of trafficking were significantly more likely to report addiction, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, self-harming and trauma histories.

“If we can intervene even when those kids are 17 and they’re couch surfing and they don’t have a safe place, but they’re still in school and we can make that connection, we can really prevent some of the long-term negative impacts,” Roe-Sepowitz said.

She explains as of right now Maricopa County has no street outreach or drop-in centers for homeless young adults because the funds are no longer in the community.

“We just don’t have those grants anymore and agencies have stopped applying for them because they’re complicated,” Roe-Sepowitz said.

She said many agencies that used to do outreach for homeless young adults went away or shifted priorities.

“I think over the past five years agencies in Arizona have had to reset, they’ve really had to figure out what they’re priorities are with fewer resources and fewer personnel and I think the pandemic just put a highlight on that,” Roe-Sepowitz said.

Roe-Sepowitz said the ASU Office of Sex Trafficking Intervention Research hopes this research helps agencies get more federal funding to support the specific age group of 18 to 25 year olds.

She added they’re working hard to build more capacity and agencies interested in this topic because there are certainly enough clients for them.

“It’s not for lack of clients,” Roe-Sepowitz said.  “It’s for lack of beds, agencies, case workers and so on.”

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Homeless young adults in Arizona remain at risk for human trafficking while resources are depleted