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Largest Homeless Youth Study

Media Contact:

Kyle Whitehead


For Immediate Release

Largest-Ever Research Studies Find Over One-Fifth of Surveyed Homeless Youth in Washington, DC, Are Victims of Human Trafficking

Washington, D.C – April 19, 2017 – Researchers announced findings this week from the largest-ever combined sample of homeless youth in the United States and Canada, revealing that nearly one-fifth are victims of human trafficking, including those trafficked for sex, labor, or both.  The dual studies by researchers at The Field Center for Children’s Policy, Practice & Research at the University of Pennsylvania and Loyola University (New Orleans) Modern Slavery Research Project, drew on interviews with 911 homeless youth across 13 cities, including 12 cities where homeless young people accessed services through Covenant House, between February 2014 and March 2017. Covenant House operates the largest network of residences and community service centers for homeless youth across the Americas, reaching more than 46,000 youth every year in 30 cities across six countries.

The study revealed that 40 percent of homeless youth interviewed in Washington, DC engaged in either sex by coercion, survival sex, or commercial sex. The Field Center also found an alarming 33 percent of all homeless youth were approached by sex traffickers on their very first night of being homeless. Where 67 percent of homeless females reported being solicited for paid sex.

“Covenant House Washington believes that important ways to greatly reduce youth sex trafficking is to first “increase the amount of beds available to youth without safe housing – then support youth to further their education, put caring adults in their lives and increase community awareness so everyone can take part in reporting suspicious behaviors and directing youth to safe spaces” – said Dr. Madye Henson, President and CEO of Covenant House Washington.

Each given night Covenant House Washington provides safe housing to over 100 homeless youth and their children. The importance of safe housing is critical; a total of 41 percent of the youth in the study lacked steady living arrangements when they were introduced to sex trafficking.

Socioeconomic factors directly play a critical role in youth homelessness and sex trafficking. According to the study, 67 percent of homeless youth that were introduced to sex trafficking lacked a high school diploma. Covenant House Washington offers Adult Basic Education courses to homeless youth, as well as preparation for the GED, that, once passed, will now be converted to a high school diploma in D.C.; this is one thing that will help youth establish a more secure foundation preventing youth from entering trafficking” – said Henson.


Covenant House Washington

The regions largest and leading non-profit, serving homeless, disconnected, and exploited youth in the Greater Washington Region. Providing wrap- around supportive services to youth with a core population of 12 – 24, however CHW serves youth from cradle to career by providing services to infants and teen pregnant and parenting moms. It is our mission to welcome youth from all walks of life and to embrace them with love, care, and respect.

For more information on these ground-breaking studies, got to

Researchers interviewed homeless youth at Covenant House shelters in Anchorage, Atlanta, Detroit, Ft. Lauderdale, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Oakland, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Toronto, Vancouver, Phoenix, and Washington, D.C.


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