Austin Councilmember Seeks to Pass Resolution to Combat Human Trafficking

RedState/Jeff Charles

Texas ranks in second place for the most reported cases of human trafficking. About 987 cases were reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline in the Lone Star State in 2020, and it continues to be an increasingly serious issue.


One of the reasons why trafficking has become such a problem is because Texas is a border state, and many of those who become victims of the criminal enterprise are smuggled over the southern border by Mexican cartels. But one area that is often overlooked is the prevalence of trafficking among the homeless.

Austin Councilmember Mackenzie Kelly recently introduced a resolution that will be up for a vote on Thursday, which could be the first step toward combatting human trafficking in the city and beyond. The resolution would take an unequivocal stance against the practice and direct the city manager to allocate resources toward protecting people who are vulnerable to being trafficked.

“It’s a formal policy statement that we support the fight to end human trafficking and condemn the ongoing exploitation,” Kelly told RedState. “And then it takes it a step further and it adds it to the legislative agenda for the city in order to encourage the Texas legislature and the broader community to support enabling legislation to end human trafficking.”

She added:

“But also it requires the city manager to give appropriate resources to vendors who do business with the city and encourage training to recognize indicators of people experiencing homelessness at risk of human trafficking.”


Kelly also recounted her experience meeting with a homeless woman who was a victim of human trafficking. She said:

“I’ve been in homeless encampment. I rode out with a constable, their office and went into an encampment where I met a woman who was in a conversation with me and a person who was not there.

And I spoke with the sergeant about her situation and he let me know that she was being trafficked in the camp. And at that point it broke my heart because she couldn’t be the only woman in the woods in this type of situation.”

The lawmaker explained how many of these individuals fall victim to traffickers.

“There’s mental illness, there’s addiction, there’s people who don’t have job skills, there’s people who are being trafficked in an encampment and have having to survive by performing sex acts they don’t want to do. And that’s crazy to me. So my hope is that this resolution will help people like that woman that I met in the encampment so that she can get the information she needs to get out of that situation.”

She added:

“And I think especially for the city of Austin, one place where we’ve really not done a great job is learning why people are homeless and then helping to get them resources to lift them out of it.”


If passed, this resolution would be the first of other measures Kelly will consider in order to address this growing problem. “If I identify something, then I’m going to research the heck out of it and bring it forward to council after working on it with my staff to ensure that we’re making tangible differences and not just passing things that are virtue signals,” she said.

The resolution states that Austin “seeks to enhance public welfare, protect public safety, and promote safety for all residents by declaring that freedom from human trafficking is a fundamental human right.”

It also “directs the City Manager to provide appropriate resources to vendors who do business with the City and encourage training to ensure vendors have the skills to recognize indicators of individuals experiencing homelessness at risk of human trafficking.”

Some of the other steps outlined in the proposal include:

  • Providing appropriate resources to ensure vendors who enter into contracts with the City have the skills to safely report suspicious activity to the right authorities, including those from agencies such as the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

  • Working with the Austin Chamber of Commerce to encourage local business participation.

  • Supporting victims of human trafficking through referrals to available support services.

  • Displaying educational materials describing indicators of human exploitation and trafficking in permanent supportive housing, bridge shelters, or overnight shelters owned or operated in the City, and all City buildings.


The City of Austin has had a serious problem with homelessness for years. The situation became even worse when the city council previously voted in 2019 to rescind the homeless camping ban, which essentially allowed them to pitch tents almost anywhere in the public space. Sidewalks were covered with tents, as well as highway underpasses.

If the resolution passes, it could be the beginning of a more concerted effort to deal with the ongoing human trafficking issue.


Join the conversation as a VIP Member

Trending on RedState Videos