youth homelessness

Safe Place – What Are the Benefits?

Written by: Susan Harmon, Director of Safe Place National Operations, National Safe Place Network

Safe Place logo

Safe Place® is a nationally recognized outreach and prevention program for youth in crisis. As the only nationwide safety net initiative implemented on a local level, Safe Place unites social service agencies, corporations, civic organizations, government entities, volunteers, educators, and law enforcement in an effort to increase the number of access points through which young people can connect for assistance. More than 20,000 locations across the country display the yellow-and-black diamond-shaped Safe Place sign, the universal symbol for youth safety. Safe Place locations include: libraries, fire stations, YMCAs, grocery and convenience stores, public transportation vehicles, social service facilities, and more.

Safe Place provides a variety of benefits to youth, families, and communities. Here are some of the reasons why Safe Place is a vital community program:

Youth get help when and where they need it.

  • Neighborhood Safe Place locations offer help and safety
  • Youth can get help before their problem escalates to a crisis
  • Safe Place connects youth and families to supportive services

Schools collaborate with youth service agencies.

  • This important collaboration helps raise awareness about Safe Place as an immediate connection to help.
  • Safe Place is a resource for schools when a student needs assistance.
  • Students learn about Safe Place through presentations, information cards, and public service announcements.

Law enforcement connects with youth and offers assistance.

  • Safe Place helps reduce unnecessary placement in juvenile facilities.
  • School-based officers provide Safe Place information to students.
  • Safe Place agencies serve as a resource for law enforcement when they encounter a youth in crisis.

Youth service agencies develop unique collaborations.

  • Collaboration opportunities increase as a result of new or enhanced community partnerships.
  • Safe Place connects agencies to a national, well-recognized brand resulting in increased visibility.

Businesses and community locations displaying the Safe Place sign show a commitment to youth safety.

  • Safe Place becomes a resource for local sites.
  • Safe Place offers a standard procedure to follow when a youth is in need of help.
  • Employees are encouraged to engage in volunteer opportunities
  • Business leaders and employees learn about current youth issues.

To learn more about Safe Place and the many benefits associated with the program, please contact National Safe Place Network at info@nationalsafeplace.org or 502-635-3660.

Staying Connected and Reaching Out During Summer

Written by: Karen Sieve, Regional Safe Place Manager, Youth in Need

Summer is around the corner.  Memorial Day means public pools are opening, and temperatures are warming up.  Summer is an important time for youth outreach.  Schools, which provide structure and additional supports throughout the fall, winter and spring, are not in session.  Children, teens and those who care about them are looking for fun activities to keep them occupied and out of trouble.  As temperatures heat up, however, many young people opt to stay indoors and find themselves home alone.  This can make outreach a challenge.

During this tricky time, what does Youth In Need’s Street Outreach team do?  Here are few tips to get you started.

Go to where the youth are.  Reach out to YMCAs, scouting groups, churches, community parks and other organizations that offer summer camps and other organized activities.  They may be looking for fun and educational activities to keep youth engaged.  Community parks and rec centers provide space and a variety of opportunities for young people to swim, jump rope, and play basketball, soccer, baseball, ping pong and pool.  They may have areas designated for teens to hang out and watch movies or use the Internet.  Parks and other public venues often offer summer concerts where youth tend to mingle.  Most parks provide plenty of shade, so youth can hang out under pavilions or trees to keep cool.  Be sure to have plenty of outreach cards and resource information on hand for distribution.  Bring along hygiene kits (with small bottles of sunscreen) and bottled water as well. Indoor skating rinks offer an additional fun option for young people to gather, listen to music, hang out, and stay cool. Most libraries provide a cool place to read and offer free computer access.  Introduce yourself to library staff.  Let them know how you can help young people so they can refer youth and turn to your agency as a resource.

Now is also a good time to check community calendars for upcoming festivals and fairs.  If possible, team up with another youth program within your agency so your agency is not only represented at a booth, but also available to walk around and meet youth, families and other participants.  Distribute outreach cards and resource information, and have hygiene kits (with small bottles of sunscreen) and bottled water available as well.

Bring the youth to you.  Consider teaming up with your Safe Place partners to offer fun events that will bring youth to you.  For example, ask your local fire departments to turn on water hydrants for a quick and fun cool down on hot summer days.

Team up with community partners.  In previous years, Youth In Need’s Street Outreach team hosted a free back-to-school barbeque and grilled hotdogs and burgers.  Ask your community partners to co-sponsor the event and provide donations of chips, sports drinks, soft drinks, bottled water, ice cream and school supplies.  Ask your local radio station to broadcast, or if they are not available, bring your Bluetooth speaker and play some tunes.

Utilize social media.  Promote these events and your agency’s whereabouts on social media.  Youth In Need’s Street Outreach team has a Facebook page that is popular among youth in our community.  Additionally, Facebook Live can be a fun way to inform and engage youth in what your team is doing and how you can help.  Facebook offers some great tips to get you started, https://live.fb.com/tips/.

Summer presents a unique set of challenges for outreach staff.  The key to reaching youth is creativity, flexibility and utilizing existing partnerships and social media to stay connected.

National Safe Place Week: March 19-25, 2017

Written by: Hillary Ladig, Communications Coordinator, National Safe Place Network

National Safe Place Network (NSPN) is pleased to announce National Safe Place Week, March 19-25, 2017 (#NSPWeek2017). This nationally recognized week highlights the Safe Place program and the many valued partners who work together to provide access to immediate help and safety for all youth. NSP Week serves to recognize licensed Safe Place agencies, local site and community partners, and volunteers who are the pillars of strength that support the national safety net for youth.

NSP Week helps garner support for Safe Place and calls attention to local and national issues affecting youth. Well-planned awareness activities provide opportunities for individuals and organizations to share information about Safe Place and youth in crisis as well as opportunities to get involved in local Safe Place program efforts. Effective NSP Week activities and events: increase general awareness about Safe Place; provide opportunities for advocacy; help build community support for Safe Place and licensed Safe Place agencies; and, recognize individuals, organizations, and businesses involved in the program.

NSP Week 2017 will be celebrated nationally using the following themed days:

  • Safe Place Sunday – March 19
  • Make Some Noise Monday – March 20
  • Tell All Tuesday – March 21
  • We Stand Together Wednesday – March 22
  • TXT 4 HELP Thursday – March 23
  • Friends of Safe Place Friday – March 24
  • Safe Place Site Visit Saturday – March 25

Want to get involved and celebrate NSP Week 2017? Here are a few ways you can lend support and celebrate Safe Place:

Make Some Noise Online:

  • Join the Thunderclap: Add your support to the official Thunderclap campaign to help raise awareness about Safe Place during NSP Week. Thunderclap is a social media crowd-speaking platform that helps people be heard by saying something together. Thunderclap blasts out a timed Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr post from all supporters, creating a wave of attention. The NSP Thunderclap will launch on March 20 at 1:00 p.m. EST. Please join and share the NSP Week Thunderclap here: http://thndr.me/4Re0Nb
nsp-week-tc
  • Spread the word on social media: NSP Week is a great time to promote share information about Safe Place and youth in crisis on social media channels, like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. We’ve created sample social media posts you can share throughout the week: http://bit.ly/2lDh95r. Click here to view, download, and share NSP Week social media images along with your posts: https://www.facebook.com/pg/NatlSafePlace/photos/?tab=album&album_id=10154752551031183
  • Change your Facebook and Twitter photos to support NSP Week: Click here to access the official NSP Week Facebook cover image and upload it to your personal and / or organization’s page: http://bit.ly/2l5ukr. You can also add a Twibbon (profile photo frame) to your Facebook and Twitter accounts. Add the NSP Week Twibbon to your profile pictures and encourage others to do the same: http://twibbon.com/Support/nsp-week-2017
nspw2017-sm-fb-cover nsp-week-twibbon

 

Get Involved In Your Community

  • Become a Safe Place volunteer for your local licensed agency. Click here to find contact information for the licensed Safe Place agency in your community: http://nationalsafeplace.org/what-is-safe-place/where-is-safe-place/
  • Visit Safe Place sites in your community and thank employees for their commitment to serving youth. NSP Week is a great time to recognize organizations and businesses that display the Safe Place sign and respond to youth in need of help.
  • Not in a Safe Place Community? Help convene community partners (ie: youth service organizations, local government, law enforcement officials, first responders, etc.) and inform them about Safe Place and the importance of providing immediate help and safety for young people in need. NSPN is happy to provide information, resources, and support to help facilitate this conversation. If you’re interested in bringing Safe Place to your community, please let us know at info@nationalsafeplace.org.

In addition to the above, you may also donate to National Safe Place Network. Help us create more Safe Place communities nationwide and ultimately connect more youth to supportive services: www.tinyurl.com/nspndonation .

To learn more about Safe Place, please visit: http://nationalsafeplace.org/.

Moving Forward: Ways to Stay Engaged in Human Trafficking Awareness All Year Long

Written by: Lindsey Collier, Human Trafficking Specialist, National Safe Place Network

ht

As National Human Trafficking Awareness Month draws to a close, I want to take a moment to thank each and every one of you who have engaged in the important work of awareness. Whether you have shared your knowledge and expertise or taken time to learn something new this month, thank you. After a month of efforts focused on awareness, you may be looking forward to some respite from the problem of human trafficking. Alternatively, you may be eager to learn more and to take action. Wherever you are, I encourage you to stay engaged in some capacity. Your community, region, state, and nation need you.

Here are some simple ways you can stay engaged all year long:

  1. Share what you know. Start a conversation. You won’t have all of the answers…that’s okay!
  2. Contact your local, state, and federal representatives. Share your concern about human trafficking. Ask them what they are doing to combat human trafficking in your community, state, and nation, and world. Request their continued support to fight human trafficking and meet the comprehensive needs of survivors. To find out who your representatives are, click here.
  3. Save the National Human Trafficking Hotline Number in your phone: 1-888-373-7888. This hotline can be used to report a tip or to request services.
  4. Volunteer with organizations combatting human trafficking. To locate organizations in your community, check out the National Human Trafficking Referral Directory.
  5. Do you travel? If so, download the TraffickCam App on your smartphone. You can upload pictures of your hotel room to a database used by investigators to determine where traffickers are committing their crimes.
  6. Be an informed and ethical consumer. Check out Made in a Free World for a growing list of companies that are committed to freedom and ethical business practices.
  7. Donate to National Safe Place Network or other organizations committed to meeting the needs of survivors while creating a world in which human trafficking cannot exist. Click here to donate to NSPN! We cannot do what we do without your support.

“Nothing happens just because we are aware of modern-day slavery, but nothing will ever happen until we are.” – Gary Haugen

Agencies in Action Against Human Trafficking: Park Place Outreach

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 Park Place Outreach located in Savannah, Georgia, an NSPN member and licensed Safe Place agency. This post was written by agency staff:

Park Place Outreach, in Savannah, Georgia operates a Street Outreach Program (SOP) that is actively involved in addressing human trafficking in the community. A large part of our outreach program is centered on providing services to trafficking victims, including assistance in residential placement with other collaborating agencies and training for schools and businesses on identification of and response to trafficking victims.

We also focus on educating our community about human trafficking. We participate in venues that are specifically focused on raising awareness. The SOP coordinator serves on the Savannah Interagency Diversity Council (SIDC) Board, which plays a huge role in resolving human trafficking on both the local and national level. We also take part in the annual Savannah Traffic Jam, a conference facilitated by the SIDC.  This year’s Traffic Jam will take place on the campus of Savannah State University on Saturday, January 28th, 2017.

The SOP program goes out into the community two to three days a week and distributes information to suspected trafficking victims. Our approach is to provide information on how to get out of the life if they want.

Park Place Outreach recognizes that an understanding of culture is critical to assist trafficking victims. We have received extensive training from other agencies such as National Safe Place Network and the Family and Youth Services Bureau.

We collaborate with surrounding agencies to assist us in bringing victims off of the streets and out of harm’s way.

Our SOP emphasizes the importance of identification of trafficking and seeks to raise awareness among various community organizations. We work closely with agencies such as Safe Shelter and Salvation Army, who have collectively agreed to assist and provide services to survivors.

To learn more about Park Place Outreach, please visit: http://parkplaceyes.org/

Policy Advocacy and Human Trafficking

Written by: Eric Masten, Director of Public Policy, National Network for Youth

Recently, former-President Obama proclaimed January to be National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. Unfortunately, human trafficking still occurs throughout our country, and youth and young adults experiencing homelessness are particularly susceptible to becoming victims of trafficking. Throughout the country, the National Network for Youth’s members, funded through the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA) provide support and assistance to runaway or homeless youth who are particularly at risk of being victims of either sex or labor trafficking.

Many factors contribute to the overall number of homeless youth each year, but common reasons are family dysfunction, exiting the child welfare or juvenile justice systems, and sexual abuse. Youth who have been victims of abuse are more likely to exchange sex for basic necessities that they lack. A 2016 study from the Administration on Children and Families’ Family and Youth Services Bureau noted that nearly one-quarter of participants (24.1%) exchanged sex for money, 27.5% exchanged sex for shelter, and other participants exchanged sex for other basic needs such as food or protection.

Homeless youth are also vulnerable to labor trafficking because the traffickers promise them what they do not have – food, housing and employment. In a survey conducted with the Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking, of the homeless youth providers that screened for child labor trafficking, each program had identified at least one labor trafficked youth.

Fortunately, RHYA funded programs have experience providing youth at risk of being trafficked with a safe place to stay and offer services to survivors of trafficking to help them heal from the trauma they have faced. Street Outreach Programs help 25,000 youth find shelter each year. In particular, Street Outreach Programs work closely with other organizations that work to protect and treat young people who have been or are at risk of sexual abuse or exploitation. Basic Center Programs and Transitional Living Programs prevent vulnerable youth from becoming victims of human trafficking by providing them with a safe place to stay, crisis interventions services and meeting their basic needs.

RHYA, legislation that is vital in helping to prevent and support youth and young adults who are vulnerable to trafficking because they are experiencing homelessness, is now due to be reauthorized. More than 50 national organizations have come together as part of the National Coalition for Homeless Youth to support reauthorizing RHYA by passing the Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act. With a strong history of bipartisan support, this legislation will ensure that providers throughout the country continue to provide its crucial programs that support youth who are, or are at risk of, experiencing homelessness and potentially being trafficked.

Visit the National Network for Youth’s webpage to learn more about the intersection between human trafficking and runaway and homeless youth.

Cultural Competence and Meeting the Needs of Human Trafficking Survivors

Written by: Lindsey Collier, Human Trafficking Specialist, National Safe Place Network & RHYTTAC

January is National Human Trafficking Awareness Month. Our goal is to raise awareness with the ultimate goal of preventing trafficking, meeting the needs of survivors, and creating a world in which trafficking and exploitation cannot thrive. Earlier this month, we emphasized the importance of talking about trafficking in an accurate and honest manner, rather than feeding the sensationalism that often surrounds the national and even global discourse. Last week, we continued our quest for awareness by highlighting the many myths that exist in our understanding of trafficking and offered a more realistic picture of what trafficking really looks like.

Today’s topic is cultural competence. When you hear the word “competent,” what thoughts come to mind? Knowledge? Ability? Mastery? Understanding? Given the variety of cultures and subcultures represented in America today, how can we possibly provide services in a culturally competent manner to any and all youth or young adults who request our help? Is it even possible? What does it mean to be competent in someone else’s culture? Is there an element of cultural competence that suggests membership in a culture is a mandatory pre-requisite for competence? What are the implications of cultural incompetence? How much damage are we doing by practicing in such a way that does not expressly honor and include culture?

We know that trafficking isn’t limited to young, white females who are snatched off of the street. We know that trafficking can affect anyone, and research suggests some populations are disproportionately vulnerable. We ourselves may identify with a minority or marginalized culture, or we may belong to one or more of the dominant cultural identities, such as male, white, or cisgender.

Additionally, belonging to a specific culture does not mean that every member of that culture shares an identical experience. There are a multitude of individual experiences within a specific culture and we must be careful not to draw assumptions of a survivor’s individual experience based on cultural identity.

I believe that cultural competence is a nice goal, but nearly impossible. After all, I find myself bumbling around from time to time within my own world. How can I possibly gain enough knowledge and experience to be competent in any number of other cultures to which clients belong?

Just the other day, I had an experience with a respected colleague in which I unintentionally expressed some thoughts in such a way that screamed not competent. I didn’t intend any harm or judgment, but out of a conscious attempt to be culturally competent, I was unable to articulate clearly and the result was a jumble of words and thoughts that were anything but. What if that had been a client? What irreparable harm might have been done? If you are honest with yourself, I imagine you have had a similar experience at some point in your life.

So, what do we do? If cultural competence is important, necessary even, and also nearly impossible to achieve, how do we approach our practice? Do we just concede defeat and do the best we can otherwise? Do we keep fighting the good fight, so to speak, and seek out professional development and training opportunities in cultural competence and try to learn everything we can?

As one of my mentors wisely taught me, the answer is Both, And. We cannot comprehensively meet the needs of trafficking survivors without including and honoring their various cultural identities and the implications that culture will have on their trafficking experience and their ability to heal. No amount of therapy, support, or referrals can be beneficial if culture is not accounted for. Alternatively, it simply is not possible for any one service provider to achieve even a basic level of competence in the infinite cultural identities that could be encountered in practice with survivors. If we attempt to do this, survivors will see through it and realize that our perceived competence is really just a collection of facts that may or may not reflect an understanding of their experience.

Rather than concede defeat, however, I believe we should do everything we can to honor and include culture in our services while also acknowledging that we will never be experts in cultural identities that are not our own. Being real about our lack of competence lends credibility to our practice and allows space for survivors to teach us. No matter how much training and expertise you have, you will say or do something at some point in your work with survivors that shines a spotlight on your lack of cultural understanding. When this happens, own it. Self-reflect. Acknowledge your misstep and use it as an opportunity to learn. Perhaps cultural competence is not really competence at all, but instead an honest confession of incompetence coupled with genuine empathy.

For more information on cultural competence, please see the following resources:

General

DiversityRx – This is a resource on Cultural Competency Training focusing on healthcare but with broader applications.

National Center for Cultural Competence (NCCC) – The NCCC is part of the Center for Child and Human Development at Georgetown University and offers a variety of resources.

Child Welfare Information Gateway – A variety of resources on cultural competence in working with children and youth is provided here.

RHY Grantees

RHYTTAC Webinars – Click here to access the following webinars via RHYTTAC’s eLearning site.

HTR3 Understanding Cultural Competence

Disproportionality and Cultural Proficiency

Raising the Bar: Building and Strengthening Linkages and Supports for Native Youth in RHY Programs

The Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Boys, Adolescent Males, and Trans Youth

Cultural Competency in Services to RHY

Serving African American Youth

Serving Asian/Pacific Islander Youth

Serving GLBT Youth

Serving Latino Youth

Serving Native American and Alaska Native Youth

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/

Agencies in Action Against Human Trafficking: Bill Wilson Center

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 Bill Wilson Center in Santa Clara, California, an NSPN member and licensed Safe Place agency. This post was written by agency staff:

Bill Wilson Center (BWC) is active on many levels to address human trafficking, especially with CSEC and TAY youth. As a direct service provider, we are the designated youth shelter (12-17 yrs.) for police to drop off youth they picked up who are victims of trafficking. Our county has been very active in developing and implementing policy that no youth under the age of 18 yrs. is cited for sex trafficking, but is considered a victim and will not be sent to juvenile hall by default. Once identified, survivors are immediately offered the services of a sexual assault advocate, with whom BWC collaborates to conduct needs assessments, safety plans and permanent placements for youth. BWC is active on local CSEC and Safety Net committees and in developing protocols within our county to respond to victims of human trafficking. BWC has both a Drop In Center and LGBTQ Drop In Center that provide services to street youth including trafficking survivors and offers housing programs and employment, career, and education opportunities through case management, outreach, training programs and linkages to community partners. BWC staff advocate at political forums and present at local conferences for education to the public on human trafficking. Our approach is client centered and trauma informed.

Assessment and intake tools used across the agency include soft questions to identify trafficking survivors. Once identified, services offered include a sexual assault advocate, substance abuse treatment, mental health and health care, safety plans, housing, and other supports. We are currently waiting for a training date from West Coast Children’s Clinic to use their CSE-IT assessment and screening tool which will become a part of agency protocol.

BWC ensures that culturally competent practice is utilized across programs and across the different populations we serve. We have policies and procedures in place including an LGBTQ program that offers a safe, kind and accepting environment to create rapport and develop relationships with survivors as support is offered. Our staff is diversified to reflect the demographics of our county and the clients we serve. As a nationally accredited agency through Council on Accreditation, we have written policies and procedures outlining our culturally competent practices. Our staff receive on-going training in working with survivors.

We have developed a vision for a program with a unique approach to meet the needs of survivors that has yet to be funded. In collaboration with another agency whose staff is certified as sexual assault advocates, we propose the development of a receiving center located in a beautiful Victorian home specific for CSEC-identified youth. The house is warm and inviting and provides an atmosphere that is both private and conducive to one to one counseling, assessment and advocacy. The protocol we envision is one in which police drop a youth off at this home, where they are met by a trained, culturally competent staff who immediately connect the youth with a sexual assault advocate. There are three phases of treatment: 1) Crisis Intervention; 2) Stabilization; and 3) Long Term Support and Follow up. This project is a collaboration between law enforcement, BWC and another local agency. Our hope is that this vision is replicable on a larger scale.  Although it has not yet been funded, the philosophy and protocols are being implemented through the BWC emergency shelter for homeless and runaway youth.

To learn more about BWC, please visit: http://www.billwilsoncenter.org/.

Is your agency working to combat human trafficking and meet the needs of survivors? Click here to share how your agency is working to end human trafficking: https://nspn.memberclicks.net/index.php?option=com_mc&view=mc&mcid=form_230456

Anti-Trafficking’s Sensational Misinformation

Written by: Laura Murphy, Loyola University New Orleans, Modern Slavery Research Project

Are America’s homeless youth targeted by human traffickers? Yes. But not in the sensational way we always hear about.

What we read about sex slavery today is alarming, sensationalized, and often perverse. Tracking down one of the most frequently reported statistics in today’s anti-slavery movement – that runaways are at high risk of sex trafficking – paints a very clear portrait of the unnecessarily exaggerated appeals that are widely-disseminated and oft-repeated.

So what do we know about the fate of runaways in the US? The Department of Health and Human Services reports that “Children, both boys and girls, are solicited for sex, on average, within 72 hours of being on the street. The National Center for Homeless Education shortens the time window and increases the risk by saying “As many as one third of teen runaway or thrownaway youth will become involved in prostitution within 48 hours of leaving home.” Fox News Milwaukee recently increased the number of victims to say that “90% of runaways become part of the sex trade business — and most are coerced within 72 hours of running away.”

So are runaways solicited for sex or are they recruited by pimps or are they forced into the sex trade? Does this happen to runaway children or all homeless youth? Does it take 48 or 72 hours for them to be trapped?

Later next month, I will share research and other details of my work where I enlisted the students in my freshman seminar on 21st Century Slavery and Abolition at Loyola University New Orleans to search for the origin of this human trafficking factoid, and they easily discovered how tangled the web of misinformation is.

Laura T. Murphy is an Associate Professor of English at Loyola University New Orleans and Director of the Modern Slavery Research Project. She believes that community-based research is at the heart of social change. She provides research services, training, and education on modern slavery and human trafficking throughout the US as well as internationally. Her books include “Survivors of Slavery: Modern Day Slave Narratives and Metaphor and the Slave Trade in West African Literature.” She is currently working on a new book titled “The New Slave Narrative.”