Financial Freedom for Human Trafficking Survivors
The Polaris Resilience Fund offers direct cash assistance, no strings attached, to human trafficking survivors to use in whatever they see fit. In doing so, the Resilience Fund gives survivors back exactly what their traffickers stole from them – control over their own lives. Along with cash assistance, Polaris will provide opportunities for recipients to access services aimed at reducing the impact of key systemic barriers to their financial security. This kind of no-meddling, no-bureaucracy help has been proven in numerous contexts to be an effective tool for strengthening individuals’ financial security and, in doing so, contributing to stronger communities where fewer people are vulnerable to trafficking.
“As an ambassador for Polaris, I feel proud that Polaris is innovative and trusts survivors … (and) is saying, ‘You don’t have to perform your trauma for us, we believe you, your lived experience is enough and you can have the time and the space to heal in your own way and in your own time and in a way you know is right for you.‘”
— Ashley Judd
Why Was the Fund Developed?
Far, far too many survivors of human trafficking are just barely hanging on financially. We learned this from the National Survivor Study, which asked nearly 500 people with lived experience of human trafficking how they are doing now that they are out. The answer, unfortunately, is that many are living paycheck to paycheck. Survivors often work multiple jobs just to meet their basic needs. They are struggling in so many ways that time and money to process their trauma, or go to school at night, or to finally be able to move the kids to a safe neighborhood, seems like a faraway dream. They are still, in very real ways, living in the trap created by their traffickers.
Disproportionate Household Income
The simplest measure of positive livelihood is income. By this standard, survivors are
lagging behind the rest of the population.
- 43% were living in households with earnings of $25,000 a year or less compared to 26% of U.S. households overall.
- This $25,000 is, in most of these households, support for more than one person.
Services and Support for Survivors
Accessible, affordable, and trauma-informed mental health support was what respondents most frequently reported needing and had trouble getting.
- At the time of exit, 75% of respondents reported support in accessing behavioral or mental health services as one of their top needs.
- At the time of the survey, the same level of need was reported by 39% of respondents.
Barriers to Inclusion and Stability
Survivors of sex and labor trafficking faced some unique barriers to financial and societal inclusion that may not similarly affect survivors of other kinds of violence.
- Roughly 40% of respondents reported some kind of criminal record as a result of their trafficking experience.
- Over 60% of respondents reported experiencing financial abuse by their trafficker.
- Respondents are twice as likely to be unbanked compared to the general US population.
The Inaugural Director
With a background in survivor-led, evidence-based program development and a commitment to advocating for the economic empowerment of survivors of human trafficking, Megan Lundstrom has assumed the role of inaugural Director of the Resilience Fund. Megan’s reputation for the successful development of The Avery Center as a survivor-run and federally funded organization provides an opportunity for trust-building within the survivor community for this new initiative at Polaris.
The Advisory Council Representatives
The diversity of lived experiences of survivors of trafficking requires diverse representation in expert consultants for the Resilience Fund’s design and delivery. Survivor-led organizations and their leaders are centered as member organizations on the Advisory Council. Survivors are connected with survivor-led organizations that best meet their needs in community and resourcing, and therefore centering survivor-led organizations creates layers of trust and survivor leadership within the Fund’s DNA.
Messages from the Advisory Council
Goals for the Resilience Fund
The Resilience Fund will be the first basic income program to be funded at the federal level and opens the door to additional basic income initiatives to gain traction beyond local and state programs.
Improve the lives of individual survivors and their families by helping them break the cycle of exploitation, allow time for healing, and provide resources to help them reach their personal and professional goals and thrive.
Reduce human trafficking by creating an alternative source of support for vulnerable people and collect and amplify stories of empowerment and transformation to inspire other survivors and the human trafficking field to think bigger.
Create a long-term, federally funded GBI program to reduce human trafficking by strengthening individuals, families, and communities and reducing vulnerabilities such as poverty – before a trafficker presents themselves as the best option.
Resilience Fund Applications
The Resilience Fund’s Advisory Council is currently designing the application and selection process, with a focus on eliminating bias and prioritizing individuals who have experienced the most systemic barriers. Polaris will announce the opening of the application period in the coming months on this website and via social media. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.
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