Sex trafficking is an all too common and prevalent problem that takes place every day in our communities. Every day at Covenant House Alaska, we are encountering young people who have either become a victim of trafficking crimes, or they have at least come into contact with people who are, or have been, involved in trafficking.
“Human trafficking is undoubtedly one of the most horrific crimes and is unfortunately happening in all corners of the state. It’s the second fastest growing crime on Alaska soil—happening in plain sight.”
– Senator Lisa Murkowski
In December of 2019, the U.S. Department of Justice awarded Covenant House Alaska with two grants totaling $950,000. These grants were given to enhance the capabilities of local efforts to reduce crime and victimization, protect children, and promote public safety. We have been working for years with trafficking survivors and spreading awareness on the issue to others throughout Anchorage. After attending several national conferences and learning about how trafficking happens throughout Alaska, we have put a plan in place in order to directly assist minor victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation.
“This funding from the Department of Justice is important news for Covenant House Alaska as we continue working to help victims of sex trafficking. One of our highest priorities is to ensure that Alaska’s children are free from sexual, emotional, or physical abuse. This grant will help us continue to meet these priorities well into the future and we are grateful to the Department of Justice and all who were involved in securing this grant. We are not alone in this fight. We look forward to continuing our work alongside Priceless, the Alaska Native Justice Center, and the Alaska Congressional Delegation to ensure that Alaska’s children are safe, protected, and empowered to reach their full potential.”
– Alison E. Kear, Chief Executive Officer of Covenant House Alaska
The grants will fund two projects:
1) Anchorage Minor Victims of Trafficking Service Coordination Project
$500,000 over 3 years
This project continues the work of the Anchorage Domestic Victims of Human Trafficking project funded by the federal Administration for Children & Families, which served 122 trafficking victims in 2018. The target population for this project is minors, though they can continue to receive services through the program after their 18th birthday. The project includes hiring a Trafficking Navigator—a Permanency Navigator trained to specifically work with trafficking victims—to provide relationship-based case management and continue community coordination and referrals for victims. The project will also include partner organizations who will provide case management services to clients.
2) Covenant House Alaska Trafficking Navigator Project
$450,000 over 3 years
This project will serve an estimated 20 victims of trafficking per year (a total of 60 over the grant period). Included in this project will be hiring and training a separate Trafficking Navigator who will focus on minors but is not restricted to only working with minors, partnering with Priceless to adapt their existing mentorship program into an age-appropriate program for minors, and recruiting and training about 120 mentors over the grant period. Each youth will be assigned a Trafficking Navigator and 2-person mentor team.
The navigator is critical to our success in managing victim relationships and our ability to help people in this situation. The Trafficking Navigator will be able to direct specialized interventions for them including appropriate safe housing, support from victim’s services, legal help, assistance with legal documents, relocation support, mental health and substance abuse coordination and someone to help support them if they choose to report to law enforcement. Of course, if a child is under 18, we must legally report their case. In addition to the direct care we will be providing trafficking victims, we will be providing education for the youth, staff and community, which is so important to preventing more instances of trafficking. We have also formalized a system for identifying those who are vulnerable to becoming trafficked as well as tracking identified victims and survivors.
“Although Covenant House Alaska has been working with young people experiencing trafficking for many years, this program is going to allow us to formalize and create structure, standards, and directed approaches to assisting these youth. The general navigator model is one in which young people are assisted by us walking beside them to get their ID’s, go to the doctor, go to job interviews, etc. This is imperative when working with someone who has been traumatized by a trafficker. It is not enough for traditional case management models to plan and expect the person to perform and navigate systems by themselves.”
– Heidi Carson, Covenant House Alaska, Senior Program Officer
Moving forward, we will be working on legislation that will support our work in the assistance of trafficking victims. In changing laws to better help victims of these types of crimes, we hope to remove persecutory practices and address the stigma of perceived “prostitution”. While we do this important and necessary work to improve the safety of children in our state, we must remain true to our mission of helping ALL young people who are experiencing homelessness, not only young people who are victims of human trafficking. We have known for a long time our youth are sought out by traffickers because of their vulnerabilities, and now we will have tools to empower youth and prevent them from falling into the traps of traffickers.