Markus was asked to leave his home in Salt Lake City at age 17 when his family discovered he was gay through a social media post. Because of being outed on social media, he experienced bullying and discrimination at school and in his usual social environments. None of his friends’ families would take him in, so he ended up on the street with few resources.
After a week on the street, Markus met a young man that was kind and offered him a job. It was easy, he said, to readily accept an opportunity to travel, make some money, and most importantly get away from a hostile existence in the only community he had ever known.
The job sounded exciting too! He would travel with a group of 8 other young adults and sell soap door to door. He’d be provided with room and board at a hotel and would make money off of each product he sold.
After arriving in Denver, he stayed the first night in a motel room with his entire cohort. In the morning, he would be dropped off in a suburb of Denver and walk door to door selling soap. It was more challenging than he thought, and seemed impossible to sell any soap at all.
Within a week, Markus was cut from the team. He was told that because he hadn’t sold enough product, he actually owed $450 for the motel room he had shared with 8 others. The van dropped him off in Westminster on the way back to Denver, taking his backpack and iPhone as “collateral” for the debt.
Markus made his way to Boulder and found TGTHR a day later. His story is unfortunately not a rare one. In fact, Markus’ story is only one out of the 185 stories of labor trafficking that TGTHR saw in 2016.