The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to expand housing options for foster and probation youth transitioning from county care to adult independence, especially young people at risk of sexual exploitation.
Supervisor Hilda Solis said funding is available to help these minors, but some of the money remains unspent despite a shortage of dedicated housing.
“Once they become emancipated, there is very little for them made available,” Solis said. “This is unacceptable.”
A total of 584 minors were referred to the Department of Children and Family Services last year as commercially sexually exploited children. Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said gangs have moved into sex trafficking because it’s more lucrative and less dangerous than the drug trade.
Many victims of sex trafficking also end up homeless, according to the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking.
Supervisor Janice Hahn, who co-authored the motion, said these children have suffered enough.
“These young people have experienced unimaginable trauma, and they have a hard road ahead of them as survivors,” Hahn said.
Based on a board motion last November, the county has increased the supply of transitional housing for 18- to 21-year-old foster youth by one-third and doubled the housing available for 18- to 25-year-old former foster youth. Numbers on total supply were not immediately available.
Hahn said more needs to be done.
“We’re leaving unspent money on the table,” she told her colleagues.
Supervisor Kathryn Barger said minors rescued from sex trafficking and exploitation also need to be better protected from those who groomed them for the business.
“I think we need to treat (youth) housing the way we treat domestic violence shelters,” Barger said.
The board called for a report back in 60 days on the level of funding available, how it has historically been allocated, and recommendations for maximizing the share spent on youth housing.
“By focusing on efforts to improve housing for this vulnerable population, and ensuring that impacted youth have a voice in shaping their futures, we can develop an array of supportive housing options to meet their needs, ensure their stability, and give them every opportunity to succeed,” Solis said.
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