All of the big non profits and NGOs in the Untied States are praising the Justice Department for awarding them (if they’re lucky) $35 million if they are providing short-term housing for survivors of human trafficking.
On the face of it, this sounds like a really good thing, but let’s look a little deeper into exactly HOW this is going to help survivors. Most non profits, especially in New York City, have “safe houses” or shelters that give survivors a safe haven and a place to rest their head without fear of being re-victimized. There are also organizations that have “transitional housing” which aids in survivors access to permanent housing-if they get to the point. So let’s look at the specifics, the $35 million grant will only go to 73 organizations that provide services, such as housing assistance, across 33 states. The grant will cover rent, utilities, related expenses (most likely related to the organization) and a security deposit. That means that there will be heated and probably nasty competition between organizations that want all access to that money. Another facet of that grant is that it’s temporary, 6-24 months temporary. This means that a survivor has 6-24 months to be out of the shelter system and into permanent housing.
I have yet to see that happen.
As I’ve said countless times before non profits have a lot to gain by keeping survivors in the shelter and agency housing system. Now, I do not believe all of them subscribe to this strategy however you can bet that organizations that already have this system set up will receive the grant. Survivors are their marketing tool for sustained funding which is why they need them to occupy their shelters and homes. The grant will keep survivors tied to these organizations while non profits continue to inflate the number of women and girls they are serving in order to gain more funding. This attempt at ending the evil scourge (as Bill Barr likes to say) of human trafficking with temporary funding for short-term housing only strengthens the cycle of inter-dependency.
In the wake of the corona virus pandemic employment is scarce even for survivors. Most have been placed in low minimum wage jobs that have now been shuttered because of the pandemic making it harder for them to leave their short-term housing. Even though their rent and utilities will be paid for, they will still need assistance with food, clothing and in some cases, childcare. All these things are what keep a survivor dependent on others to live until the money runs out. Even if she is given access to employment by the program she is in, it will never be enough for her to live independently.
Another issue that has become the driving force related to the grant is the fact that human trafficking victims must quarantine with their trafficker during the corona virus pandemic. I don’t understand how this grant is going to get her out of that situation and into temporary housing. She obviously can’t just leave so how can this help her? I guess in the event that she can get out, there will be places with a lot of money that can take her in-if she gets out.
The grant system in this country is completely disproportionate and favors large organizations with a lot of overhead and staff that needs to get paid. So much is being given to accommodate first level immediate services that resources like psychological and trauma informed therapy fall by the waist side. So many survivors are living with PTSD, depression, anxiety and panic attacks but not many are given the help they need to overcome them. Some have to deal with program directors that are insensitive to their mental and emotional state and suffer the consequences if they don’t comply with harsh rules and policies. Without these badly needed resources survivors can be easily manipulated and controlled so that they never move forward. Giving temporary funding to some organizations so that human trafficking survivors can live in shelters without having to pay rent will not end this widespread global issue, it may in fact exacerbate it. What will help is programs that are designed to encourage survivors to stand on their own, providing them with gainful employment that pays them a living wage and not a unsustainable wage, evenly distributed funding to ALL non profits that work with survivors on many different levels. This is what will combat human trafficking, setting up a highly competitive grant structure that is restricted to a certain number of organizations will only increase the lack of collaboration, partnership and sharing of resources that is instrumental in helping survivors overcome trauma and fear so they can rebuild and start again.
If your organization is lucky enough to get this grant, please use it wisely.
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Women And Revolution is a blog designed to raise the issues that are affecting women all over the world while giving it journalistic value. W.A.R is a division of BeaSister2aSister a 501(c)3 non profit that helps survivors of human trafficking, domestic violence, exploitation and abuse break the cycle of inter-dependency and become self sustainable. If you would like to learn more you can visit our website at http://www.beasister2asister.org or you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are interested in seeing women and girls everywhere break free from inter-dependency, please consider donating online as a one time or sustainable donor. We are committed to seeing every woman walk in total freedom.
Stay tuned for a brand new podcast titled “Global Sisters” where we will be talking about human rights issues that affect women and girls all over the world and we can do as sisters to effect change.