Discussion will focus on how children experiencing homelessness are most vulnerable
PITTSBURGH, Pa. – On November 16, the Homeless Education Network (HEN) will host a panel at their meeting to educate the local community about human trafficking and sex exploitation in our area. Prominent keynote speakers in this field of study will discuss how children who are experiencing homelessness and who lack an adequate education are more susceptible to fall prey to being trafficked or sexually exploited. HEN members will hear about this growing issue on both a national and local level.
Kelly Kochamba, Community Outreach Specialist/Media Representative with the FBI Pittsburgh Field Office and Bradley Orsini, Supervisory Special Agent at the FBI Pittsburgh Field Office will be on hand to give the Network an update on the issues and concerns of human trafficking in the Pittsburgh community. Both speakers will educate the network on human trafficking indicators, identification and how to get involved or help an individual that may be caught in a trafficked/enslaved situation. Attendees will also learn about the work and structure of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Human Trafficking Coalition, an organization currently working to combat human trafficking in our region.
“Our overall goal within the Coalition is to develop and maintain a network of individuals and agencies to educate the community about human trafficking and to provide emergency support to survivors,” said Kochamba. “Through the work of the coalition, the FBI has partnered with important organizations, like Pittsburgh Action Against Rape, where we provide continuing education to all law enforcement in Western Pennsylvania. Our goal within the FBI is to reach out to as many law enforcement officials as possible to make them aware of this problem in Western Pennsylvania.”
Elizabeth Miller, MD, PhD, Chief, Division of Adolescent Medicine at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center will present a general overview on the issues surrounding human trafficking and sex exploitation in America. She will focus on how children experiencing homelessness, as well as children who lack an adequate education are more prone to being trafficked and/or enslaved.
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (2000) and the U.S. Department of State (2000), human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal industry in the world and one of the most profitable. UNICEF estimates that 158 million children between the ages of five and fourteen are engaged in child labor – equating to one in six children worldwide (UNICEF, 2011).
In countries with the fewest resources, 29 percent of all children are engaged in child labor that often interferes with their education, robs them of normal childhood experiences and has detrimental physical and psychological effects (UNICEF, 2011). The International Labor Organization estimates that 246 million children and youth between the ages of five and 17 are presently involved in some type of debt bondage or forced labor (ILO, 2009).
On September 13, David J. Hickton, United States Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, spoke at a Human Trafficking Symposium. At the Symposium, Mr. Hickton stated that preventing and prosecuting human trafficking is a top priority of the Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney’s Offices. He indicated that victims of human trafficking are usually the most vulnerable members of society, such as runaway children. Desperate for shelter and food, these children often turn to the wrong person for help and find themselves enslaved and sold for sex. Many of these victims are hiding in plain and painful sight. Mr. Hickton emphasized a commitment to bringing traffickers to justice; the need to focus on prevention through the disruption of trafficking rings; creating public awareness of the prevalence of the issue and educating potential victims who often unwittingly place their lives in the hands of exploitative traffickers; and the importance of victims being made aware of their rights.
The Human Trafficking and Sex Exploitation panel will be presented as part of the HEN meeting, which will take place at the Allegheny County Department of Human Services Building in theLiberty Room from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
The Homeless Education Network is an initiative of the Homeless Children Education Fund (HCEF). The HEN convenes homeless provider agencies, public and parochial schools, county human service providers, and many others throughout the community to collaborate with one another and better serve our most vulnerable children and youth. As an entity, the HEN shares the responsibility for ensuring that children and youth experiencing homelessness have access to the same educational rights as the rest of society.
Since 1999, the Homeless Children’s Education Fund (HCEF), a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization, has been dedicated to providing advocacy, community engagement, and direct service programs that support the education of children and youth experiencing homelessness. For more information, visit www.homelessfund.org.