Human traffickers take advantage of homelessness during COVID-19 crisis

As job loss leads to loss of housing during the pandemic, anti-trafficking advocates worry traffickers are using the financial hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic to recruit victims.

A survey by the national non-profit Polaris Project found 64 percent of survivors reported being homeless or in unstable housing at the time they were recruited by human traffickers.

Christina Allen, CEO of FamilyTime Crisis and Counseling Center in Humble, believes the job losses in the service industry particularly impact survivors of human trafficking.

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"Then, the issues with the gaps and employment affect credit history which then, in turn, affects rental history," she told FOX 26.
"And, they are often unable to secure a place of their own without finding someone else to be a co-signer for them."

This week, the Department of Justice awarded more than $35 million to organizations across the country for housing for survivors of human trafficking. Only two of the organizations awarded are in Texas -- Santa Maria Hostel in Houston and FamilyTime Crisis and Counseling Center.

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"We have had to greatly reduce the number of survivors that we can accept into the shelter so we can practice safe, responsible social distancing," Allen explained.

The shelter is operating at a third of their normal capacity. However, now with the grant, Allen hopes they'll be able to help at least twice as many survivors.

"These funds enable us to provide them with temporary housing elsewhere," she added.

The federal funds will also help survivors find jobs and counseling.
Allen says they hope to reach survivors before their desperation leads them back into a trafficking situation.

"It's a little bit early for us to know for sure but the likelihood that will happen is great because so many people were affected economically," Allen said.