DESERET NEWS - LA SEX TRAFFICKING NOT LIKE IN THE MOVIES by Lane Anderson, Deseret News National Edition
There are between 4,800 and 10,000 homeless minors in Los Angeles on any given night, most of them concentrated around downtown L.A. and Hollywood, and many find themselves in a Dickensian scramble to survive. Some come from out of state, in search of warm weather and a better life, but most are local kids from Southern California’s poor neighborhoods. Many will fall into, or be pressed into, sex work.
Exact stats on minors in the sex trade are dicey — information is hard to get and tough to confirm. One oft-quoted but unverified figure says that one in three teens will be recruited into sex work the first 48 hours on the street according to the National Runaway Switchboard. Another embattled University of Pennsylvania study claimed that most kids enter the sex trade at age 13; a more recent peer-reviewed 2008 report puts the average age at 15. What is known is that homeless teens, at any age, are vulnerable...
And many of the young women and girls “in the life,” the insider term for sex work, have a history of abuse at home or in the foster care system before they ever end up on the tracks. Forty-six percent of runaway and homeless youths report having being physically abused, and 17 percent report being forced into unwanted sexual activity by a family or household member, according to a study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
This is part of what advocates call the “foster care to prostitution pipeline” that sets kids up from a childhood of abuse into a future in sex work...
Covenant House is a shelter and outreach center for homeless youth, with 94 beds. The vacancy rate is zero, and last month the waiting list had 100 names on it.
Bill Bedrossian is the executive director at Covenant House California, and if you ask him what would abate sex exploitation of young people, one answer is simple: beds.
Covenant House is on a short list of places that law enforcement calls when it is trying to place young people living on the street. “They have a scared kid from Idaho who they found in front of a store, or at the train station, or on Skid Row; that’s not a safe place for a young person to be,” he says.
About 65 to 70 percent of the youths Covenant House serves are locals from L.A. County, about 30 percent are from other states. Nearly all are coming from foster care, or are running from abuse, he says.
COVENANT HOUSE LINK
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