Rob was scared and confused when he called the National Runaway Safeline (NRS). His voice quivered with a slight stammer, words came out rapid fire,…

Rob was scared and confused when he called the National Runaway Safeline (NRS). His voice quivered with a slight stammer, words came out rapid fire, and his story was scattered. Erin, an NRS frontline team member listened patiently as he tried to explain his situation.

Rob was 19. He was hundreds of miles from home. He had been recruited to a traveling sales crew by a Craigslist ad that promised “adventure” and “big earnings,” but the reality turned out to be much different than he expected.

After travelling halfway across the country, he was arranged with a crew selling magazine subscriptions door to door from 7am until 10pm every day. If crew members complained or failed to make daily sales quotas, managers would deprive them of meals or force them to sleep outside.

In a calm, collected tone, Erin asks: “Are you safe now?”

Tonight, Rob failed to make his quota. When he stood up for himself, his manager beat him and kicked him out. He made his way to a gas station down the street from the hotel where they had been staying. He was clearly rattled by what has happened.

“I’m not sure,” Rob responds, “I have nowhere to go.”

Last month, President Obama issued a Presidential Proclamation that declared January Human Trafficking Awareness Month unveiling a Federal Strategic Action Plan on Services to Victims of Human Trafficking in the United States. Central to the plan is an emphasis on coordination and collaboration as evident by its joint development across governmental agencies and service providers.  It details 250 action steps to ensure that victims of human trafficking in the United States are identified and have access to comprehensive, trauma-informed services they need to recover.

In the spirit of collaboration and coordination, NRS worked with numerous partners throughout the country to help raise awareness on a national level, while simultaneously promoting local events. We helped kick-off a statewide campaign against sex trafficking in Nevada, joined with the New Jersey Coalition Against Human Trafficking to make preparations for the Super Bowl, and working with service providers helped trafficking victims like Rob to get out of danger and off the street.

Erin conferenced a call with the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC).Through a coordinated effort between NRS, NHTRC, a local service provider, and law enforcement Rob got to safety. Not only did this team coordinate shelter and transportation to get Rob off the street that night, but also managed to intervene on behalf of the remaining sales crew members.   The service provider helped four other young men leave the sales crew; law enforcement agents arrested the manager on assault charges; and, the National Runaway Safeline (NRS) through its Home Free program arranged bus tickets for all five victims to return home.

The economics behind human trafficking may be complicated, but NRS’ role in the equation is somewhat simple: provide services to youth in crisis, decrease the supply of potential victims. The Institute of Medicine, the health arm of the National Academy of Sciences, found that homelessness is considered one of the largest contributing factors to human trafficking. By providing youth access to shelter, free transportation for runaways returning home, and additional resources to keep youth off-the-streets, NRS is playing a role in reducing the opportunities for exploitation and keeping young people safe.


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