Human trafficking – the act of compelling someone to work, for little or no pay, through force, fraud, or coercion – is a pervasive issue that affects communities around the world and across the United States. Frequently, human trafficking stems from and contributes to economic instability for individuals and communities. Traffickers seek out and exploit financially vulnerable individuals, such as those living in poverty, unemployed, or who are experiencing homelessness.
Across our Network, United Ways are combatting human trafficking by supporting the economic mobility of community members. For example, United Way of Pasco County (UWPC) is taking a bold stand against human trafficking through its dedicated program, Fighting Human Trafficking, with the primary goal of providing safe housing and comprehensive support for survivors and their families. The program, which launched in 2020, is designed to address both the immediate and long-term needs of survivors. Offering both short-term (3-6 months) and long-term (6-24 months) housing options, Fighting Human Trafficking provides a secure foundation for survivors to rebuild their lives, fostering stability and security.
In collaboration with a network of health and human services agencies and local law enforcement, UWPC delivers direct service case management to program participants. In addition to receiving housing, participants benefit from array of wrap-around services, including mental health counseling, physical health support, legal assistance, job placement, education opportunities, substance abuse recovery programs, and family reunification services. In a state where the call volume to the National Human Trafficking Hotline consistently ranks high, UWPC’s community coordination work is crucial.
Over the past few years, UWPC’s Fighting Human Trafficking program has seen great success. To date, UWPC has delivered a total of 2,060 vital wrap-around services to 114 survivors across Florida. This includes over 73 instances of emergency and transitional housing assistance to 34 survivors and their children. These efforts have not gone unrecognized. In fact, in June 2023, UWPC received $250,000 from the State of Florida to continue and scale these efforts.
By addressing the aftermath of trafficking through comprehensive services, the UWPC is actively helping community members break out of cycles of exploitation and poverty. Achieving economic mobility involves not just gaining financial stability but also having access to education, stable employment, and mental and physical well-being. Through services like job placement and education support, the Fighting Human Trafficking program empowers people with lived experience of human trafficking to gain financial independence and so much more.
Like UWPC, the entire United Way Network is well poised to address the issue of human trafficking, and United Way Worldwide has created an exciting new tool to help. The Strategy Guide to Combat Human Trafficking is a comprehensive resource that local United Ways can utilize to understand and address the issue of human trafficking in their communities. It aims to empower United Ways across the United States to combat this issue by leveraging existing strengths, partnerships, and programs, just as UWPC has done in their community.
To learn more about the connection between combatting human trafficking and promoting economic mobility, click here.