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Activating Connections to Prevent Human Trafficking

As we step into a new year, January holds more than the promise of resolutions. It’s a clarion call to confront a pervasive crisis: Human Trafficking Awareness Month. This presidentially designated annual awareness campaign, led by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), unites youth-facing service providers and communities through education about human trafficking and the roles we all play in protecting vulnerable youth. The 2024 theme, “Activate Connections to Prevent Human Trafficking,” is a stark reminder: This fight isn’t for the solitary hero. It’s a collective struggle, demanding connections that safeguard and uplift those at risk or already ensnared in human trafficking’s grip.

Human trafficking and youth homelessness are inextricably linked. According to HHS, homeless youth are at a significantly higher risk of becoming victims of human trafficking. Traffickers prey on their vulnerabilities, offering false promises of stability, employment, or a sense of belonging. As service providers working directly with youth who are at risk of running away from home or have experienced homelessness, it is crucial to understand this intersection to effectively address and prevent these issues.

At the National Runaway Safeline (NRS), we have worked to increase our own connections with organizations that focus directly on human trafficking. In 2023, NRS spoke with representatives from Polaris, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and Blue Campaign in a podcast series on the realities of human trafficking in the digital era, and the intersections of human trafficking and youth homelessness.

In 2024, we’re upping our game. We’re set to launch a groundbreaking module in our Let’s Talk: Runaway Prevention Curriculum, specifically tackling human trafficking and exploitation. And it’s coming soon – in the first quarter of 2024.

We challenge our partners in the Runaway and Homeless Youth community to ask themselves how they can continue to integrate messaging about human trafficking into their work throughout the year. HHS has provided an informative toolkit that includes examples of connections you could activate to increase awareness, such as hosting a human trafficking training or sharing prevention materials. If you are looking for updated statistics and facts on human trafficking that you can share with your supporters, we recommend checking out this page on Polaris’ website. We also recommend adding the National Human Trafficking Hotline to your list of resources.

Let’s not just raise awareness, let’s activate our connections and turn the tide in this crucial fight.

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