The Resilience Fund

Financial Freedom for Human Trafficking Survivors

The Polaris Resilience Fund offers direct cash assistance to survivors of human trafficking across the U.S. to fill the gaps between traditional resources. In doing so, The Resilience Fund gives survivors back exactly what their traffickers stole from them – control over their own lives. Along with this direct cash assistance, Polaris is building referral pathways for survivors to access specific services to reduce the impact of the five core systemic barriers to their financial security. This kind of trust-based model 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 Launched?

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 their kids to a safe neighborhood, seems like a faraway dream. They are still, in very real ways, living in the trap created by systems and exacerbated by their traffickers.

Key Findings from the National Survivor Study

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, often a child.

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.
  • Survivors of human trafficking face complex legal needs, with the most common being criminal records and family law.

Core Systems Barriers that Prevent Survivors from Reaching and Maintaining Stability

  1.  Access to quality mental and behavioral health resources.
  2.  Representation for criminal record relief, family law, and other legal matters.
  3.  Relief from debt bondage through credit repair.
  4.  Financial inclusion.
  5.  Formation and maintenance of a robust social support network.

What Does it Mean for a Survivor to Economically Thrive?

A survivor of human trafficking who is economically thriving is a person who is securely rooted in their community; with sufficient material resources to be able to be in the present without grief, fear, or restraint from the past; and who has what they need to pursue their goals for the future. Economically thriving is having the freedom of unconstrained choices, and possessing the capacity to dream.

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 unique combination of lived experience, direct service provision, survivor-led research initiatives, and non-profit management over the past 15 years 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. The inaugural Advisory Council for The Fund is composed of leaders from survivor-led organizations who have been recognized within lived experience communities as trustworthy and committed advocates to the centering of impacted communities in the development of new initiatives. Centering survivor-led organizations is just one example of the commitment to a thoughtful trust model that prioritizes survivor leadership within the Fund’s DNA.

Chris Ash
CEO of National Survivor Network
Tara Madison
Chapter Program Coordinator of Elevate Academy at Rebecca Bender Initiative
Aims Babich
Peer Mentor at You Are More Than, Inc.
Sophie Otiende
CEO of Global Fund to End Modern Slavery
Christine Cesa
Community Representative, Founder of You Belong, LLC
Samara Sevush
Survivor Alliance

Messages from the Advisory Council

Goals for the Resilience Fund

The Resilience Fund is the first direct cash assistance program that is available across the U.S. specifically for survivors of human trafficking, and opens the door to additional basic income initiatives to gain traction beyond local and state programs.

The Resilience Fund has the potential to improve the lives of survivors and their families by helping them break the cycle of exploitation; allowing time for healing; and providing pathways to resources that reduce barriers to achieving their personal and professional goals.

Reduce human trafficking by creating a consistent source of economic stability for survivors while amplifying stories of empowerment and transformation to inspire other survivors and the human trafficking field to think bigger than current narratives around rescue and deservedness.

Create a long-term, sustainably funded direct cash assistance program to reduce human trafficking by strengthening individuals, families, and impacted communities and reducing vulnerabilities such as poverty – before a trafficker presents themselves as the best option.

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Resilience Fund Applications

The Resilience Fund’s Advisory Council is currently designing the application and selection process for the second cohort, with a focus on eliminating bias and prioritizing individuals who have experienced the most systemic barriers.

In 2023, The Resilience Fund successfully onboarded its inaugural cohort of 24 recipients, nominated by the Advisory Council. These individuals have begun receiving up to $500 per month and will continue to do so through March 2025.

In 2024, The Resilience Fund aims to provide up to $500 per month for up to 18 months for an additional 76 survivors of trafficking across the U.S.

December 2023 Update

After careful consideration and thoughtful reflection based on valuable feedback from our Advisory Council and the inaugural cohort, we have made the decision to delay the onboarding of the second cohort until June 2024. This decision stems from our commitment to delivering the best possible program – one that prioritizes meaningful relationships and addresses the valuable insights provided by our community.

While this means we won’t be able to address immediate needs through The Resilience Fund as soon as anticipated, we want to make sure that you are aware of other support that Polaris can provide you. If you are in need of immediate assistance or referrals to anti-trafficking service providers in your area, please contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline, a 24-hour, confidential hotline by calling 1-888-3737-888, texting 233733, or connect with us via webchat. A hotline advocate can speak with you about your needs and will not release any information without your consent. Please note: The National Human Trafficking Hotline is separate from the Resilience Fund, and is unable to provide direct cash assistance. 

We sincerely appreciate your understanding and patience during this period of learning. As we work diligently to create a program that exceeds expectations, we will keep you informed of any updates and developments. 

Do you want to be directly notified when the application opens?




Contact if you have any questions.

Need help? Polaris operates the U.S. National Human Trafficking Hotline.