Housing providers, federal agencies, and others all have a role in improving services to survivors of human trafficking, according to a new report from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

The first-of-its-kind study assesses the availability and accessibility of housing and services for individuals experiencing housing instability and who are survivors or at risk of being trafficked.

“This report confirms what we at HUD know well: We cannot take a one-size-fits-all approach to affordable housing,” says Marcia L. Fudge, HUD secretary. “Thanks to this critical assessment, we will know more about how to better provide housing resources to survivors of human trafficking who are experiencing homelessness or housing instability.”

The “Housing Needs of Survivors of Human Trafficking Study” was prepared in response to Section 606 of the 2022 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, which requires HUD to examine approaches to outreach and engagement with survivors. HUD also released a fact sheet.

The report examines the challenges survivors have in gaining access to an appropriate mix of housing and services, including navigating complex, siloed programs that do not work together in a coordinated way. In addition, programs that rely on private market housing can present a challenge to survivors, who often struggle to find landlords willing to rent to them because of documentation requirements, criminal records, credit issues, poor rental history, or immigration status, says the study.

“Program models that most successfully serve survivors are those that are trauma-informed and survivor-centered,” says HUD. “Survivors have diverse backgrounds, experiences, and needs, and programs are more successful when they have the flexibility to serve these individual needs.”

The report notes that developing a full set of recommendations requires more research, but it suggests several potential ways to improve access to housing and services to survivors, including increased trafficking survivor-specific housing resources, particularly to increase access to long-term housing assistance and wraparound services and investment in flexible funding sources, either through considering how major funding sources could be made more flexible or through increasing funding for programs that currently have the most flexibility.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation reported 2,023 incidents of human trafficking in 2020—of which 84% were for sex trafficking and 16% for labor trafficking—but Department of Justice research suggests this is only a small portion of trafficking cases. The National Human Trafficking Hotline received reports of 10,359 trafficking situations in 2021 and identified 16,554 possible victims, according to the report.