The Domestic Labor and Sex Trafficking of Homeless Youth

Featured Video Play Icon

Phone, Prostitute, Spaceman“Children and youth victimized in human trafficking are not social outcasts or criminals. Rather, they are our neighbors and friends, our nieces and nephews, and our children and grandchildren who have been or who are currently being mentally, physically, and sexually abused. And they don’t need us standing around clicking our ruby red slippers or dreaming of Oz” ~ Karen Countryman-Roswurm.

The only thing that gets me more upset about the domestic labor and sex trafficking of homeless youth in America, is the fact that most people don’t even care that homeless boys and girls in this country are being bought and then forced to do horrible things. As many of you know, I have been working with homeless people in some form for the last 19 years, but it wasn’t until my trip in 2010 that I learned about labor trafficking and how rampant domestic sex trafficking is.

To me, this is a crisis and should be front page news, but I bet for most of you, this is the first time you’ve even heard about the trafficking of homeless youth. Most of the attention and the resources go to fight international trafficking, and all human trafficking is horrible, but domestic trafficking is our kids. OUR KIDS!

What happens to trafficked children in the U.S. when they are discovered by the police? Often they are arrested on prostitution charges, thrown into jail and treated like criminals, even though they are minors. But not in Kansas anymore thanks to Karen Countryman-Roswurm, who is near the top on my hero list.

Dr Karen Countryman-Roswurm worked hard to get the words “prostitution” removed from state laws. This change made it now possible for trafficking victims to get the proper help they need. Other states have also made changes to help minors who have been caught up in trafficking, but it should be every state!

I first interviewed Karen Countryman-Roswurm in 2010 and you can watch that interview here. I have mad respect for Karen and consider her a close friend, although we rarely find time to connect.  Karen was also a homeless youth, beating impossible odds, and now has a Ph.D. and is the director of the Center for Combating Human Trafficking at Wichita State University. Karen likes to call those of us that came up from the streets “survivor/leaders” I like that!

Every time I talk to Karen I learn so much, and this video interview with her is filled with information that you need to hear. I really like how Karen shares about the fight against human trafficking starts at home. Words every parent needs to hear!

This Invisible People road trip is made possible by  Sevenly and Virgin Mobile USA, who are partnering to end youth homelessness through Virgin Mobile USA’s initiative, RE*Generation. For more information please click here.

IP 19 Logo Icon crop

Invisible People


We imagine a world where everyone has a place to call home. Until then, we strive to be the most trusted source for homelessness news, education and advocacy.

Related Topics

Your support can create amazing change

Join the campaign to end homelessness by supporting the only newsroom focused solely on the topic of homelessness. Our original reporting — posted five to seven days a week — can also be found on Apple News and Google News. Through storytelling, education, news, and advocacy, we are changing the narrative on homelessness.

Invisible People is a nonprofit organization. We rely on the support of friends like you — people who understand that well-written, carefully researched stories can change minds about this issue. And that’s what leads to true transformation and policy change. Our writers have their fingers on the pulse of homeless communities. Many are formerly or currently homeless themselves. They are the real experts, passionate about ending homelessness. Your support helps us tell the true story of this crisis and solutions that will end it. Your donations help make history by telling the real story of homelessness to inspire tangible actions to end it.

Your donation, big or small, will help bring real change.


Get the Invisible People newsletter


Where Will She Go? Homeless Woman's Heartbreaking Struggle.


Homeless Veteran's ID Taken by Police Stripped of Access to Shelter


Homeless Man Across from the White House


A Homeless Man's Struggle for Survival in San Diego



sanctioned encampments are no better than unsanctioned encampments

Are Municipalities Turning to Sanctioned Encampments to Get Around Martin v. Boise?

climate change and the impact on unsheltered homeless veterans

Unsheltered Homeless Veterans in California Exposed to Deadly Floods and More

United Nations pushes back on criminalization of homelessness in the US

Criminalization of Homelessness Is a ‘Rampant’ Problem, Advocates Tell U.N.

Social workers, homeless service workers

Homeless Service Workers Need Significant Pay Raises to Afford Housing

Get the Invisible People newsletter