Within 48 hours of being on the street, a young person will be solicited for sex.
It’s happening across the country and right here in Northeast Ohio. January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month.
“We’re really here to provide help and hope,” says Bellefaire JCB Program Manager for Homeless and Missing Youth, Karen McHenry.
McHenry says any given day in Cuyahoga County more than a hundred young people under the age of 18 are on the missing persons website.
“Many of the kids are leaving home because of neglect, because they’re hungry,” she says.
“Hunger is really a huge issue in Cuyahoga County as well as we see kids who are victims of sexual abuse or some type of trauma.”
McHenry says other teens are LGBTQ and not feeling accepted.
“They’re [traffickers] honing in on the vulnerability and that’s how they’re connecting with them, manipulating them. It’s almost a form of brainwashing,” she explains.
“All of the sudden the person says ‘oh look they’re not even looking for you,’ there’s no missing picture of you on the TV today.”
A small team of about ten people work within the 24/7 program to search for missing teens and raise awareness.
“We want to make sure that people know that they’re there because they’re invisible to most people. Most people are just rushing through their day and they’re not really thinking about these kids.”
If you’re a teen who needs help or know someone who does, Bellefaire has a 24-hour hotline: 216-570-8010