Ariel Zwang, the CEO of Freedom Network member organization Safe Horizon, has become a regular contributor to the HuffPost media site, sharing her expertise on human trafficking initiatives. Her most recently published article is entitled In Counting the Homeless This Week, Let’s Count Youth Who Exchange Sex for Shelter.
The article examines the issue of New York City homeless documentation through the nationally coordinated Point-in-Time (PIT) Count, and the increased effort to locate and count homeless youth where they are hanging out, whether at a local store or daytime shelter drop-in center. More specifically, it addresses the unfortunate neglect in accounting for youth who are couchsurfing or are trading sex for a safe place to sleep (survival sex) in the PIT Count.
Zwang and the Safe Horizon organization are concerned that the final tally of homeless youth will be artificially low, because of the inability to access youth who engage in survival sex, keeping them off the streets but without autonomy or adequate resources.
According to a January 2014 survey, there was an estimated 7,000 homeless youth between the ages of 18 and 24 years old. Approximately one in four homeless youth is either a victim of human trafficking or engage in survival sex.
About this issue, Zwang writes the following:
Essentially, sleeping in any home, on a night when they would have been counted, disqualifies a youth from being homeless in the nation’s main estimation of homelessness.
The very regrettable decision comes at a decisive moment in the history of homelessness in the United States, as the federal government aims to end youth homelessness by the year 2020. With substantial effort, this is an attainable goal. But we can’t end youth homelessness if we choose to ignore some of our city and nation’s most vulnerable young people.
Continue reading the article on the Safe Horizon website.