A research team led by professors at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) will use data analytics and optimization to determine the most efficient use of shelters and services for homeless youths in New York City. Their goal is to disrupt the “supply side” of human trafficking networks by reducing the vulnerability of those most at risk of exploitation.
Renata Konrad, associate professor at the Foisie Business School at WPI, has received a $535,565 grant from the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Special Initiatives program for the three-year project. Andrew Trapp, also associate professor, is a co-principal investigator on the project. The study will build on previous research led by Konrad using analytics to develop tools to understand and address human trafficking networks.
“To disrupt human trafficking, we need to look at the beginning of the supply chain—at-risk homeless youths,” Konrad said. “The question is, can we stop the trafficking process before it happens with shelters and services for homeless youths?”
Konrad noted the challenge associated with estimating the number of homeless youths in New York City, and said that not all of those who are homeless will be trafficked or exploited.
The office of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, the mayor’s Youth Homelessness Task Force, and the Coalition for Homeless Youth have committed to support the project.