Dignity Health Leads in the Fight Against Human Trafficking

SAN FRANCISCO–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Dignity Health, one of the nation’s largest health systems, announced today it has published online information about its successful Human Trafficking Response (HTR) Program, including internal victim response procedures to encourage other health systems and hospitals to implement similar programs to protect and support trafficked persons identified in the health care setting.

The National Human Trafficking Hotline recently reported 7,500 tips of human trafficking in 2016 — up from approximately 5,500 in the previous year, and the U.S. Department of Defense calls the activity the world’s fastest-growing crime. Studies have shown that health care providers can play an important role in intervention. Nearly 88 percent of sex trafficking survivors reported having some kind of contact with the health care system while they were trafficked, according to a study in the Annals of Health Law.

“Trafficked persons are often overlooked even though most survivors report that they have visited a health care setting at least once while being trafficked,” said Holly Gibbs, Director of the Dignity Health HTR Program and human trafficking survivor. “Dignity Health has developed a victim-centered, trauma-informed program based on actual cases because we believe that health care providers can provide a critical step in identifying and supporting trafficked persons. Our goal is to share our best practices with other systems so that one day human trafficking response programs like ours will be a standard offering at all hospitals and health care facilities across the country.”

Dignity Health hopes its guidelines will make it easier for more hospitals and health care systems to identify and support trafficked persons. The health system launched its HTR Program in 2014 across its system to educate staff, implement protocols, and strengthen communities against human trafficking. It created educational modules and victim response procedures that engage not only hospital staff and physicians, but also first responders and the community to build a strong multi-agency resource network to prevent exploitation, support trafficked persons, and empower survivors. Another key component to Dignity Health’s HTR program is addressing underlying issues that contribute to vulnerability, including identifying and supporting vetted programs, advocates, and service providers in the community that help support survivors. In Fiscal Year 2016 alone, Dignity Health staff identified at least 31 persons with high or moderate indicator levels of human trafficking victimization.

To read the full release from Dignity Health on Business Wire: Click Here

To Fight Human Trafficking, The Budget Must Protect Homeless Kids

With the news from two major studies released last month that one in five homeless youth has been trafficked, it is now clear that safe, affordable housing has become an essential front in the war against human trafficking. There’s good news ― and looming bad news – from the battlefield, and the safety of youth experiencing homelessness lies in the balance.

The good news is Congress reached agreement on its budget for the rest of Fiscal Year 2017, avoiding a government shutdown, and it has raised some homelessness-related funding levels, and kept others level, through September.

There was an increase of $10 million for Youth Homelessness Demonstration Projects, which are designed to focus resources in select communities across the country to achieve rapid and sustainable reductions in youth homelessness. Congress enacted a small (0.06 percent) increase in homeless assistance programs generally and education for Homeless Children and Youth saw an increase of $7 million. Those are positive steps.

But the 2018 budget could be another story. In March, President Donald Trump’s preliminary budget called for a $6.2 billion, 13.2 percent decrease in funding for the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

There was talk of cutting $600 million from the operating funds of public housing, and $1.3 billion from the public housing capital fund, even though there are tens of billions in repairs needed in public housing, as of 2010. As the number of habitable subsidized housing units decreases, kids like the ones we care for at Covenant House will have fewer options when they try to find their own apartments.

The proposed cuts will be devastating.

To read the full story by Kevin M. Ryan on Huffington Post: Click Here

The Trauma of Human Trafficking Often Goes Unrecognized

Trauma has been the 2017 focus of the New Jersey Coalition Against Human Trafficking, and the devastating effects of PTSD along with other health issues will be discussed at an all-day event at the Middlesex County Fire Academy on Friday, May 5.

Speaker Barbara Amaya was just 12 when she was first trafficked; she spent 10 years being sold for sex in Washington DC and New York, and the long-term health effects have been devastating. When she was still a child, she would visit the ER frequently with stab wounds and bruises, but no one ever asked her what was going on. Amaya, who was 12 when she was first sex trafficked, will tell her story

To help medical professionals better identify potential victims and community members understand the suffering faced by survivors, speaker Dr. Hanni Stoklosa, ER doctor at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and co-founder of HEAL Trafficking, will offer trauma-informed care advice and training.  Dr. Stoklosa will speak to New Jersey to train medical professionals and community members.

To read the full press release from the New Jersey Coalition Against Human Trafficking on Tap into Edison: Click Here

Caught In Modern-Day Slavery, She Thought She’d Die. Could This Idea Help Others?

Victims, Advocates Help Pull Human Trafficking Out Of The Darkness

When she was 12, Brianna Williams was a driven, young entrepreneur who wrote a 30-page business plan for her future party-planning endeavor. But by the time she was 15, she was being trafficked by a man more than twice her age and had forgotten all the dreams she once had of owning her own business.

“I know people have this stigma that human-trafficking victims come from a bad background, but I came from a pretty good background,” Williams said. She never imagined she would be sold for sex or that human trafficking was even something that existed in the United States.

“I knew nothing about it until it was too late,” she said.

Human trafficking has been a problem for decades in the United States, with California leading the nation in reported incidents. But only recently has the issue come to the forefront.

“I think it is like any of the crimes against people, like domestic and child abuse, it takes a little bit of time for people to recognize it,” said Carol Shipley, executive director of the Stanislaus Family Justice Center.

Experts say changes in state and federal law and people like Williams coming forward to tell their stories have spotlighted the issue, resulting in more government funding and the creation of nonprofit organizations to combat the problem.

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 was the first comprehensive federal law to address the trafficking of people, according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline. It was five more years before California enacted its first human-trafficking law, which since has been expanded and beefed up with tougher penalties under voter-approved Proposition 35.

In 2011, Debbie Johnson, who founded the anti-trafficking nonprofit group Without Permission, held the first training in Stanislaus County on identifying the victims and the perpetrators of human trafficking. It was attended by more than 50 officials from local and federal law enforcement agencies.

“Thirty days from that training, we opened the first human-trafficking case in Stanislaus County,” Johnson said.

She said the issue gained momentum from there as she continued to train law enforcement in Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties. She said law enforcement would identify or rescue a human-trafficking victim within a week of the trainings during the first four years they were held.

To read the full story by Erin Tracey on the Modesto Bee: Click Here

How The White House Can Join The Fight Against Human Trafficking

You never forget the stories.

Teenagers tricked into forced prostitution. Men who travel halfway around the world for a good job, only to be deceived into forced labor.  Advocates who spend their entire lives fighting to help survivors.

Human trafficking is a terrible stain on our society. As I said earlier this year, it’s an issue that many of us hear about, but don’t fully understand.

Attaching names to the stories can help. Kayla suffered years of abuse from her trafficker, being forced from location to location. At 29, she returned to her home country of Romania, but couldn’t read or write. Today, with the care of specialists and volunteers, she’s thriving.

Harold came to the U.S. on a visa to work at an Indian restaurant in Ohio. But Harold and his family were treated like slaves and needed help from law enforcement and non-profit organizations to escape. Harold is now a member of the U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking.

Kayla and Harold are now making big strides in life, but they couldn’t have done it alone.  They needed help.

At a recent White House meeting with President Trump, I and others in the anti-trafficking field sought to strengthen efforts to provide that help and stop human trafficking. Participants included leaders from the International Justice Mission, the Human Trafficking Institute and Hope 4 Justice, as well as survivors themselves. I was joined by the head of United Way’s Center on Human Trafficking and Slavery, Mara Vanderslice Kelly.

At the meeting, the President committed to putting the full weight and force of his administration behind anti-trafficking efforts. He called it “an epidemic.” Now, it’s time to turn words into action.

To read the full story from Brian Gallagher of United Way: Click Here

Freedom A La Cart Helps Human-Trafficking Victims Learn New Skills

What started as a seasonal food cart has blossomed into a successful catering venture that helps victims of human trafficking get their lives back together.

Freedom a la Cart is coming off of its most fruitful year yet, earning $255,768 in gross receipts through Dec. 14. That’s a nearly 43 percent increase over last year.

Paula Haines, executive director of Freedom a la Cart, said that while the organization has social services as its goal, the food is not a second thought. She calls it superior in quality and competitively priced.

“It’s exceptional,” Haines said. “Our goal is to keep (customers) coming back.”

Boxed lunches come in “signature” or “traditional” versions, with sandwiches or wraps as the centerpiece. (Salads also are offered.) They’re rounded out with sides, a salty snack and a sweet treat. Catering services cover everything from breakfast foods and dinner menus to appetizers and “displays,” including charcuterie plates.

Some of the fare is considerably chef-driven, such as the bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with blue cheese, smoked salmon cucumber shooters, braised-pork sandwiches and scratch-made hummus.

Virtually everything is homemade, including relishes, spreads and dressings. Haines said it’s nothing fancy, but “we try to add something a little unexpected to make it special.”

The group operates out of the Van Buren Center, 595 Van Buren Drive, on the West Side. The facility is owned by the Community Shelter Board and managed by the YMCA.

The program began as Doma International, to provide supportive services to providers of human trafficking. Officials added a social enterprise, a food cart, that was rolled out every summer between 2011-14.

The initiative was rebranded, which came with a name change, but the food-related workforce-development component remained.

“The training goes beyond food, although that’s the main ingredient,” Haines said. “It’s more about workforce training and getting them useful skills.”

Chef Jessica Bryant oversees the culinary aspect of the program. Bryant, who trained at the Columbus Culinary Institute at the Bradford School, formerly worked at Pistacia Vera in German Village.

Now a certified health coach, Bryant wanted to move beyond the daily grind to something more personal.

“This isn’t just being a chef; you’re a mentor to the ladies,” she said. “I need to do something that that gives me purpose. It’s beyond perfect. I couldn’t imagine a better place to be.”

To read the full story by Gary Seman Jr. at the Columbus Dispatch: Click Here

Survivors Present Recommendations On How To End Human Trafficking

NPR’s Kelly McEvers speaks with Evelyn Chumbow, a survivor of human trafficking, about the report she and other survivors put together for the U.S. government with their recommendations for how to stem human trafficking in the U.S.

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST: 

Today the State Department is releasing new recommendations on how to end human trafficking, what they call slavery in the 21st century. And here’s what makes the report different. It’s written by 11 people who survived human trafficking and are now members of the U.S. Advisory Council on human trafficking.

Earlier today I talked to one of them. Her name is Evelyn Chumbow. She was born in Cameroon. When she was 9, a woman came and told her uncle that Evelyn could move to the U.S., live with a family and go to school. And at first she told me she was excited.

EVELYN CHUMBOW: I was told that I was coming to America, and the first thought in my mind was, woo-hoo, I’m going to come marry Will Smith (laughter). And…

MCEVERS: You’re going to come marry Will Smith.

CHUMBOW: (Laughter) That was my first thought, you know, because back in Cameroon, I used to watch a lot of television show, and I assume that is how America was. You know, I was watching “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” “The Cosby Show,” “90210,” you know? So I just was, like, just imagining myself being in that lifestyle that they were living. But when I came here, that’s not what happened.

To read or listen to the full interview by Kelly McEvers of All Things Considered on NPR: Click Here

Polaris and Clear Channel Outdoor Americas Launch Anti-Human Trafficking Digital Billboard Campaign Across Minnesota

Congressman Erik Paulsen and other Minnesota Leaders Endorse Campaign to Alert Human Trafficking Victims About How to Reach Out for Help

MINNEAPOLIS, MN—Polaris and Clear Channel Outdoor Americas (CCOA), a division of Clear Channel Outdoor Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: CCO), together with Congressman Erik Paulsen, today unveiled an anti-human trafficking awareness campaign to run on 53 digital billboards throughout Minnesota. The new campaign, launching today and running for three weeks, will alert victims how to reach out for help through the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) (1-888-373-7888), as well as raise awareness about the true nature of modern slavery.

A collaborative effort between Polaris and CCOA, the Out-of-Home (OOH) media campaign, which is estimated to deliver approximately 6.5 million impressions, is designed to reach trafficking victims who may be unaware that resources exist to help them and residents who can help identify suspicious activity with raised awareness that human trafficking is a major problem in Minnesota and throughout the U.S. 365 days a year. CCOA is donating ad space across its digital OOH media platform in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan areas for the campaign.

The estimated $150 billion a year trafficking industry forces approximately 20.9 million people worldwide to live in modern day slavery. In just the first six months of 2016, human trafficking was reported in all 50 states, with 37 cases of human trafficking reported to the NHTRC from Minnesota, already a 12% increase over all of 2015. The top cities that received reports in Minnesota include Minneapolis, St. Paul, Rochester, St. Cloud, Blaine and Moorhead. In total, the NHTRC has received reports of over 265 cases of human trafficking from Minnesota since 2007.

In a news conference earlier today held at the Minnesota State Fair, Congressman Erik Paulsen, Ramsey District Attorney John Choi, Kyle Loven, Chief Division Counsel, FBI – Minneapolis, Washington County Attorney Imran Ali, Executive Director Patina Park of the Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center, Polaris National Hotlines Director Caroline Diemar and the President of CCOA-Minneapolis/St. Paul Susan Adams Loyd joined local and state law enforcement officials to speak with an audience of reporters and supporters to underscore the need for preventing and combatting human trafficking across Minnesota and the country. Also in attendance to endorse the campaign in solidarity were representatives from Uber, Mysister.org and the Hennepin County – No Wrong Door Initiative and the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office.

“We must do all that we can to eliminate the scourge of human trafficking – too many young girls and boys, and their families are affected by this heinous practice,” said Congressman Erik Paulsen (MN-03). “This awareness campaign is an important and meaningful step in accomplishing that goal. By coming together, educating our communities about available resources, and empowering others to play a role in combating human trafficking, we can all contribute in this fight.”

Senator Amy Klobuchar, who could not attend today’s event said, “Raising awareness is critical in the fight against human trafficking. This campaign, which educates and empowers people to join the fight against trafficking, has the power to help prevent children from being victimized and help those who have fallen victim to this heinous crime get the support they need to get their lives back on track. I was proud to lead the effort to pass the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act that is helping law enforcement further crack down on human traffickers in communities across the country while bringing about greater restitution and justice for victims. We must continue to ensure that children who are sold for sex are treated as victims, not criminals.”‎

“People exploited in forms of modern slavery are receiving help and services to rebuild their lives every day in America, including here in Minnesota. From the domestic worker provided with her visa, to the young girl sold online for sex who now has counseling and therapy support, survivors are reaching out to the national human trafficking hotline more than ever,” said Caroline Diemar, Polaris’s National Hotline Director. “Too often, though, survivors aren’t aware the national hotline exists or that they can be connected to a network of support across the country. Minnesota’s awareness campaign is critical to ensuring survivors of sex and labor trafficking get the help they need.”

“Our digital OOH campaign has the power to reach many victims of human trafficking across Minnesota and let them know that there is help and way out of this modern slavery,” said Susan Adams Loyd, President, CCOA-Minneapolis/St. Paul. “What is also important about this campaign is that we are reiterating to residents that human trafficking is a real, crucial issue that needs a call to action immediately. Together with Polaris, and with the support of Congressman Paulsen and Minnesota law enforcement, our goal is help these victims gain back their freedom and ultimately decrease the number of cases of this heart-breaking crime.”

Polaris and CCOA have forged a national partnership to combat human trafficking with campaigns in cities across America. CCOA launched its first anti-human trafficking campaign alongside Polaris in Philadelphia in 2012 and has since supported campaigns with Polaris and/or local partners in Baltimore, Iowa, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Milwaukee, New Jersey, New York, Phoenix, San Francisco, Seattle, and across the entire state of Texas. This is CCOA’s 20th anti-human trafficking campaign and data show that the campaigns drive calls to the hotline, including tips and requests by victims for help.

The National Human Trafficking Resource Center is operated by Polaris, and funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and other private donors. The NHTRC (1-888-373-7888) is a confidential, multilingual hotline that connects victims and survivors of all forms of human trafficking to nationwide available services to get help and stay safe. It also provides the anti-trafficking community with actionable tips and insights. By offering a robust 24/7 infrastructure and sharing data and resources, the NHTRC unites local efforts into a national movement that is helping survivors restore their freedom and eradicating human trafficking at scale.

###

Press release from the Polaris Project: Click Here

Fort Bragg Summit Focuses On Prevention Of Human Trafficking

Shamere McKenzie had big plans for her life.

She was going to be the next Marion Jones. An Olympian. The fastest woman alive.

A high school track star, McKenzie earned a full college scholarship. But then, her dreams fell a part.

When McKenzie shared her story to more than 400 people at Fort Bragg on Monday, she had no stories of Olympic glory.

In spite of her bright future, life dealt McKenzie a rough hand.

Instead of racing around the track, McKenzie was one of countless women who was forced to work the track, a nickname for anywhere victims are sexually exploited.

For more than a year a decade ago, McKenzie was held against her will as a prostitute.

Sometimes the bonds were physical – a hand around her throat, a fist to her face or a boot to her side.

But mostly, the bonds were psychological – formed by a fear not only for her own life, but for her family’s.

“Human trafficking was my life for 18 months,” McKenzie said at Fort Bragg’s Special Victims Summit. “That’s 18 months of what I describe as severe torture. Torture in every sense of the word torture.”

McKenzie, who now runs the nonprofit Sun Gate Foundation dedicated to helping survivors of human trafficking, told her story as part of an annual event that brings Fort Bragg and surrounding partners together under a common goal of helping the most vulnerable.

This year’s event had a focus on human trafficking and a goal of bringing community and military leaders together to tackle the issue, said officials from Womack Army Medical Center who organized the event.

Dr. Sharon Cooper, a staff forensic and developmental pediatrician at Womack, said that in military communities in particular, officials must keep their eyes open for sometimes subtle signs of the horrible crimes.

“The research shows that wherever you have a military community, you will have businesses that foster labor and human trafficking,” Cooper said.

To read the full story by Drew Brooks at the Fay Observer: Click Here