In 2013, the city of San Francisco made combating human trafficking a priority and established the Mayor’s Anti-Trafficking Task Force within the Department on the Status of Women. In combination with changes in state law and the advocacy of the Task Force, funding was set aside for a 24/7 response line to provide services to youth who have experienced commercial sexual exploitation in San Francisco. Building on Huckleberry’s existing programming for youth experiencing commercial sexual exploitation, HART was formed. This expanded advocacy, crisis response, and case management services to youth ages 11-24 experiencing commercial sexual exploitation or who face similar challenges in San Francisco.
HART strives to create a safe space where youth are provided options in a nonjudgmental way in the hopes that they can lead the lives they desire and heal in the ways they define for themselves. HART views human trafficking as a symptom of larger vulnerabilities and other systemic root causes and works to address how these dynamics play out in young people's lives. HART provides advocacy and direct practice services to youth ages 11-24 who are vulnerable to or experiencing commercial sexual exploitation/involved in sex trafficking/engaging in survival sex. Using a relationship-driven, empowerment, and client centered approach, HART engages youth who are most disconnected from systems with the goal of re-engaging them with providers and connecting to their community.
Overview of the Issue
HART supports young people who have been impacted by trafficking, commercial sexual exploitation, or other vulnerabilities. The commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) occurs when youth under 18 are sex trafficked or induced to perform sexual activity that involves the exchange of sex for anything of value. The definition of CSEC also includes the experiences of young people engaging in commercial sexual activity or having sex in exchange for things that help them survive.
Youth can be vulnerable to exploitation or engaging in commercial sexual activity for a variety of reasons, including lacking basic needs, homelessness, child welfare involvement, juvenile justice system involvement, histories of trauma, mental health concerns, and lacking systems of support. This is a prevalent issue in the Bay Area, including in San Francisco.
- Relationship-driven, trauma-informed case management services and referrals to increase safety and stabilization in:
- Basic needs (food, clothing, etc.)
- Job training/employment
- Mental and physical health
- Legal needs, including around immigration status
- 24-hour response line to parallel child welfare’s response to allegations of exploitation
- One-on-one prevention sessions that provide psycho-education around trafficking, vulnerability, boundaries, power and control, and consent
- A weekly girls group in juvenile hall
Who Does HART Support?
- 92% identify as female
- 52% identify as African American, 22% Latinx, 9% Multiracial, 8% White, 2% Asian Pacific Islander, 6% unknown, 2% Native American
- The average age of a HART client over 18 is 19.8.
- The average age of a HART client under 18 is 15.2.
- 78% have had contact with the foster care system
- 38% have had contact with the juvenile justice or criminal justice system
- 38% are currently experiencing homelessness or unstable
Objectives and Outcomes
- HART provided crisis intervention and intensive case management to 50 vulnerable youth between July 1, 2021 and June 30, 2022
- 100% of youth eligible for ongoing case management continued to engage in case management services
- HART was recently trained in a prevention curriculum called "Word on the Street" which aims to reduce the chances of youth being recruited into the commercial sexual exploitation industry by providing education on exploiter recruitment tactics, healthy versus unhealthy relationships, online/social media safety, media literacy and self-esteem building.
To make a referral for a young person you are working with, please email this form to
Questions for Girls, Boys, and Gender Non-Conforming Youth Ages 11-24:
- Do you participate in the street economy (dealing, boosting, flipping etc.)?
- Have you or are you currently experiencing housing instability?
- Have you had contact with foster care, juvenile and/or adult justice, or probation?
- Do you have concerns about your immigration status?
- Have you or do you currently have someone close to you who is controlling?
- Have you or are you currently experiencing sexual violence or abuse?
- Have you or are you currently exchanging sex for food, clothing, housing, drugs, alcohol, or other goods?
If you answered yes to two or more of these questions, HART may be a great support for you. The Huckleberry Advocacy and Response Team (HART) acknowledges the strengths and struggles of youth in San Francisco. HART strives to create a safe space where youth are provided options without judgement so they can lead the lives they desire and heal in ways they define for themselves.
HART Helps By:
- Providing one-on-one support addressing: basic needs, medical needs, employment, educational support, legal support, and connections to resources.
- Advocating with youth in court, with social workers, school staff, and other adults in a youth’s life to make sure their voices are being heard.
- Talking about youth’s experiences and goals, on their terms.