Agencies in Action Trafficking: Fresno EOC Sanctuary and Youth Services

During National Human Trafficking Awareness Month, we’re highlighting agencies and programs doing exceptional work to combat human trafficking and serve victims-survivors. Today’s blog features information about Fresno EOC Sanctuary and Youth Services located in Fresno, California, an NSPN member and licensed Safe Place agency. This post was written by agency staff:

Under the California Office of Emergency Services Human Trafficking Victims Assistance Program, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Rescue and Restore Victims of Human Trafficking Regional Program, Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission (EOC) Sanctuary And Youth Services Central Valley Against Human Trafficking Program (CVAHT) serves as the planner, fiscal agent, monitor, and technical assistance provider for six strategically chosen sub-awardees and leads the Central Valley Freedom Coalition (CVFC), the local Rescue and Restore Victims of Human Trafficking Coalition. The project provides comprehensive trauma-informed client services, advocacy, outreach, training, and public awareness to a six-county region including: Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Merced and Tulare. CVAHT is also the local service provider of the Trafficking Victims Assistance Program in partnership with U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI), offering non-citizen victims access to benefits and case management.

The overarching goals of the CVAHT program are to:

  1. Identify victims of human trafficking as defined by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, and provide comprehensive services to victims and survivors;
  2. Build capacity by providing training and technical assistance on human trafficking in diverse professional sectors;
  3. Provide leadership for, work collaboratively within and actively strengthen the regional anti-trafficking coalition, Central Valley Freedom Coalition, a Rescue and Restore Coalition; and
  4. Increase public awareness, particularly among victims of trafficking, of the dangers of trafficking, how to identify victims and the protections and services that are available for victims of trafficking.

The Coalition’s Steering Committee meets quarterly for training and updating purposes on the topic of human trafficking, as well as creating a safety and supportive services network for identified victims of human trafficking. Sub-committees meet monthly in order to increase collaboration on the topics of: Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Minors, Labor Trafficking, Law-Enforcement, Public Awareness, and Victim Services. General Coalition meetings are held bi-annually and are open to the public. In addition, CVAHT, Central Valley Freedom Coalition, and their project manager supports the activities of local and federal law enforcement agencies, district attorneys’ offices, and the U.S. attorney’s office via pro-active information sharing and training on human trafficking. Central Valley Freedom Coalition is comprised of local and federal law enforcement agencies, legal service organizations, faith-based organizations, service providers, and advocacy groups. Fresno EOC Sanctuary and Youth Services, Fresno Police Department, Fresno County Sheriff’s Department, Fresno County District Attorney’s office, FBI, ICE, EEOC, U.S. Attorney’s office, Crime Victim Assistance Center, Central CA Legal Services, Marjaree Mason Center, Centro la Familia Advocacy Services Inc.; California Rural Legal Assistance, Family Services Supporting Tulare County, Fresno Council on Child Abuse Prevention, Kern Coalition Against Trafficking, and Central Valley Justice Coalition are among member organizations. CVAHT is in a position to clearly identify the extent of human trafficking related issues in California’s Central Valley, establish and utilize protocols, certify and provide services to survivors of trafficking in persons. This program fills an existing gap in services while offering a proactive measure toward decreasing future numbers of human trafficking incidents in the community.

Potential victims of trafficking are initially screened by advocates, and/or case managers. Potential victims may enter into contact with CVAHT project staff through a variety of ways. Emergency responders may be dispatched to locations which are deemed safe, for an initial assessment. Potential victims may also be referred through existing community agencies, law enforcement, concerned citizens and significant others or present as a self-referral. CVAHT utilizes a trauma informed approach in conducting both screening and assessment to determine primarily that the definition of trafficking is met as defined by the TVPA and secondly the availability and provision for individualized and comprehensive services to assist all victims of human trafficking in establishing safety, self-sufficiency, and in achieving their short-term and long-term goals.

A unique feature of Fresno EOC, as a community action agency, is that its board and staff must reflect the ethnicity and characteristics of the clientele served. The diversity of program staff lends itself to attract a variety of ethnic, cultural, and racial minorities. Several of the program staff members are bilingual in Spanish, one staff member speaks both Ukrainian and Russian, allowing the program to serve persons with limited ability to speak English. In addition, the majority of informational materials are available in multiple languages, and public service announcements are also broadcast among Spanish-speaking radio stations. The Project utilizes both Language Line and the National Human Trafficking Hotline for initial contact when other languages present, and has additional funding available for translation. Sanctuary and Youth Services maintains a culturally diverse team of staff who are cross-trained and accessible to assist as needed to ensure there are no communication or cultural barriers that impede the delivery of services. In light of sensitivity to the complex identities of male, female and transgender clients, CVAHT ensures that paperwork, intake procedures, and personal interactions are respectful of references, including preferred names and pronouns. Furthermore, CVAHT maintains awareness and heightens service skills by participating in relevant training for sensitivity to cultural, gender victim-oriented trauma issues.

CVAHT utilizes a collaborative and regional approach in order to meet the varying and individualized needs of survivors. Through funded partnerships, advocates have been trained and hired by participating agencies located within the geographic six-county region served. This has proved to increase access to services, especially for rural communities where services are sparse. Additionally, due to the frequency movement of victims by their traffickers within the region, it has provided a way to increase successful investigations and participation of victim service agencies with law enforcement. During the case management phase, this approach has proved helpful to support Survivors because it has increased collaboration, leveraging resources, available options to victims and the ability to fill in gaps of services.

To learn more about Fresno EOC’s CVAHT, please visit: http://www.fresnoeoc.org/cvaht/

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