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Data Shows Homelessness and Human Trafficking Continue to Persist in Orange County

Updated: Jun 7, 2022

March 26, 2019

By: Anna Bryan

Two significant reports were released in Orange County recently. In February 2019, The Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force (“OCHTTF”) released its 2019 Human Trafficking Victim Report reflecting data and statistics from 2017 and 2018. An Equity Profile of Orange County (“The Equity Report”) was released in March 2019 by OC Grantmakers with research by The USC Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE). Both reports contain significant data about Orange County. What can we learn?

2019 Human Trafficking Victim Report

The total number of human trafficking victims assisted in 2017 and 2018 is 415. Of the total human trafficking victims, 359 were sex-trafficking victims. Of the 359 sex-trafficking, 249 were adults and 110 were minors. The OCHTTF’s Human Trafficking Victim Report provides the best-estimated data of Orange County, using figures of those identified and assisted by the OCHTTF. Note the report only has data on victims that are treated by social services. It is not comprehensive of total human trafficking victims in Orange County. Due to the logistics of data collection and the allocation of time within this period, this year’s victim report data was combined and not separated into two individual years as in previous year’s reports. For comparison, the total number of human trafficking victims assisted in 2016 was 284. Of the total human-trafficking victims, 234 were sex-trafficking victims. Of the 234 sex-trafficking victims, 160 were adults and 74 were minors.

An Equity Profile of Orange County

The Equity Report is designed to identify racial and economic inequalities and disparities. The report establishes a definition of an equitable region. “Regions are equitable when all residents -regardless of their race/ethnicity and nativity, gender, or neighborhood of residence- are fully able to participate in the region’s economic vitality, contribute to the region’s readiness for the future, and connect to the region’s assets and resources.” The Equity report provides an equity indicators framework including demographics, economic vitality, readiness, and connectedness. The Equity Report provided details on the changing demographics of Orange County including the risks to housing insecurity and homelessness caused by stagnant wages and rent.

The Equity report cites a growing affordability crisis which is creating unstable housing for many in Orange County. Estimates are about 5,000 homeless but those are only estimates. More than half of households in the region are rent-burdened. Nearly 6 in 10 (57 percent) of households are rent-burdened, defined as spending more than 30 percent of their household income on housing costs. The report recommends policy changes to ensure affordable housing for all. “Equitable strategies need to ensure that all residents can afford to live in Orange County and contribute to the local economy.”

How are the Two Reports Connected?

Covenant House is a nonprofit based in New York City. For more than 40 years the nonprofit has sheltered homeless and trafficked youth. Covenant House now works in 31 cities in 6 countries. Covenant House explains on their website the reason human traffickers target kids facing homelessness. “Because these young people are low risk and are easier to lure from the streets. Kids who experience homelessness are susceptible to human trafficking because they’re vulnerable and malleable - perfect prey for traffickers. And with no place to call home and no one to care for their well being, who'll know they're gone? The human trafficking industry preys on youth facing homelessness and exploits the lack of beds in youth homeless shelters as a way to lure young people in. Human traffickers manipulate the young and homeless by telling them that shelters are full, followed by the proceeding questions: “Where are you going to go? Why don't you come with me?”

Addressing equity in Orange County is important for the economic stability and economic vitality of the region. In addition, efforts to prevent homelessness in Orange County are important to protect the women and children in Orange County from being exploited by human traffickers.

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