Housing and Homeless Systems Recommendations

The following is an overview of the recommendations for the housing and homeless systems discussed in the new report from Polaris, On-Ramps, Intersections, and Exit Routes: A Roadmap for Systems and Industries to Prevent and Disrupt Human Trafficking. This topic was included in the housing and homelessness chapter of the report.

For federal and local governments, private foundations, and individual funders

1. Increase public and private investments in housing and shelter programs.

  • Congress and local governments should consider passing new legislation and expanding funding streams in existing policies that will subsidize and promote the creation of available housing.
  • Those responsible for writing grant requirements are encouraged to implement mandatory implementation of trauma informed, voluntary services, and culturally relevant modalities, as well as require awardees to accept survivors of all types of trafficking.

2. Study and replicate innovative local housing initiatives.

  • Many cities and states have begun developing creative and resourceful housing initiatives to remove housing barriers human trafficking survivors face.
  • Examples:
    • Chicago Housing Authority, the Housing Authority of Cook County, and regional HUD and HHS offices joined together for a housing pilot program which offered 60 housing choice vouchers to eligible human trafficking victims over a period of 3 years.
    • Youthworks, an anti-trafficking NGO in North Dakota, used federal funds awarded in 2016 to designate “host homes” (similar to foster families) for youth survivors up to age 22.

For private shelter systems

1. Publicize housing services for immigrant survivors of human trafficking.

  • In 2016, HUD, HHS, and US Department of Justice clarified to service providers who receive federal funding that individuals must not be excluded from housing services on basis of their immigration status.
  • Service providers should publicly include foreign national survivors of trafficking in their target service populations.

2. Domestic violence (DV) shelters should include victims of human trafficking in their target populations.

  • Trauma-informed domestic violence shelters are simply the best suited out of any other institution to fill the gap when a trafficking-specific shelter is not available.
  • Many DV shelters are already serving DV survivors who have also experienced forced labor or commercial sex, without even knowing it.
  • Proper staff training on nuances of human trafficking, coupled with trauma informed modalities that many DV coalitions already encourage are generally all that is needed to adapt a shelter for the needs of a trafficking survivor. Read more in this blog!

For private rental management companies

1. Obtain training on how to identify and respond to human trafficking on properties.

  • Rental management companies, apartment and townhome complexes, and individual landlords should commit to receiving comprehensive training to help them understand and detect possible human trafficking in their properties.
  • Real estate owners should consider requiring management companies they contract with to undergo training as a condition of their business.

2. Include housing protections in lease agreements.

  • 64% of respondents to Polaris’s Survivor Survey reported losing their housing due to their trafficking or reported abuse.
  • Individual landlords and residential management companies should consider adding basic rights and protections for victims of violence (explicitly including human trafficking) into the standard lease agreements. Some example protections may include:
    • Protecting a victim from housing discrimination, eviction, or other punishments based on their status or history as a victim of crime.
    • The right to call the police for emergency assistance without fear of housing consequences.
    • Allowing a victim to break their lease without penalty with adequate documentation of victim status.
    • The right to reasonable security procedures free of charge (e.g. change of locks).
    • Commitment to upholding any and all protection orders.
    • Ensuring complete confidentiality of all housing records and documented victim status.

Need help? Polaris operates the U.S. National Human Trafficking Hotline.