One Statistic That Will Make You Drop Your Jaw

One Statistic That Will Make You Drop Your Jaw

Robin met her boyfriend on a dating app and was thrilled to be with someone who genuinely accepted her. 

They had a great time together until Robin was evicted from her apartment. 

Ready with a solution, the boyfriend suggested Robin move in with him for free. Then everything changed. 

After a couple weeks, the boyfriend demanded Robin “pay off the debt she owed him” by having sex with his friends.

At first, Robin refused, but was frightened when her boyfriend asserted he was secretly a police officer and could throw her in prison if she didn’t comply. 

As a trans woman, Robin was terrified of being thrown into prison – so she did what he said. 

Finally, Robin couldn’t take it anymore; she knew she needed to get away.  

To escape her trafficker, Robin needed to secure a safe place to live. 

So she called us. But we can’t always find a shelter. 

There are around 313,000 trafficking survivors in Texas, but only 529 beds designated for survivors in the entire United States

 Houston lacks short-term housing for trafficking survivors while they wait for long-term placement.

There are only 529 beds exclusively for trafficking survivors in the entire United States, but an estimated 313,000 trafficking victims in Texas alone. 

Even survivors who are connected to support groups and legal services may not have a safe place to sleep. Left with no other option, they resort to laying on the concrete, resting on a park bench, camping under a bridge, or sleeping in a temporary shelter. 

You may be thinking, “what about shelters that aren’t only for trafficking survivors?” 

While some trafficking survivors find a place to sleep overnight at homeless shelters, most shelters lack the resources trafficking survivors need to stay safe.

Many shelters only offer a place to stay over-night, leaving survivors with nowhere to go during the day. Reports to the National Human Trafficking Hotline show that traffickers even recruit victims in homeless shelters. 

Thankfully, our team connected Robin to a shelter where she could escape her trafficker!

But as we move forward in our fight against human trafficking, it’s critical that we fill this gap in services.

We must face this reality: we need more inclusive beds and safe homes established specifically for trafficking survivors.  

 

How to Change the World with Fair Trade Subscription Boxes

How to Change the World with Fair Trade Subscription Boxes

As October comes to an end, spooky season gives way to the holidays. I don’t know about you, but my family is already asking for my holiday wish list!

What better way to show someone you care with a thoughtful and unique gift?

Buying fair trade certified items not only make your loved ones feel special, but also support ethical brands and their families.

Shopping in the age of a pandemic is difficult enough for consumers. Small businesses and their workers are suffering due to corporate consolidation and supply chain disruption. Many have curated unique subscription boxes as a safe alternative way to accessing ethically made and fair trade certified goods. 

GreenUp Subscription box

Green up

GreenUP Box is a great way to introduce your family to zero waste and plastic free products into their everyday life. This brand is perfect for the environmentally conscious!

CauseBox

CAUSEBOX

To promote artisans and socially-conscious emerging brands, CAUSEBOX is an easy way to personalize each delivery especially for the recipient. They offer a little of everything, so you can’t go wrong with these diverse ethical products.

Equal Exchange Solidarity Box

Equal Exchange Solidarity box

Finally, Equal Exchange has formed the Solidarity Box. Long term partnerships with farmers gives more opportunities to their families and business. They have curated their best-selling products to allow consumers to help take a stand and promote fair trade.

Purchasing fair trade certified products helps support farmers and small businesses and gives back to their communities. I challenge you to find a fair trade item for yourself or to gift someone this holiday season! Happy shopping!

We have to know the signs of labor trafficking and exploitation, and we need to be engaged as consumers if we truly want to create a world where all are free. Here’s how you can keep learning:

Learn more now, during fair trade month!

In celebration of Fair Trade Month, UAHT is hosting events to encourage viewers to ask questions and learn more about fair trade.

We will be airing a viewing of the documentary “The Dark Side of Chocolate” on Thursday, October 29th from 6-7:30 PM CST.

This documentary and discussion will feature a guest speaker to answer questions about what fair trade is and how consumers can get more involved in the movement.

We will also be releasing new episodes of Making Justice, including an episode with Equal Exchange.

Be sure to follow us on Instagram and Facebook to learn more information and hear about the impact that fair trade has on others!

11 Vital Questions to Ask Yourself At Storefront Shops

11 Vital Questions to Ask Yourself At Storefront Shops

UAHT is producing a five-part series on labor trafficking. Through this blog series, we are providing information and tips to identify labor trafficking! 

Today, we are focusing on how to spot red flags in storefront shops like grocery or clothing stores. 

As a customer, you may spot signs of labor trafficking in stores that you regularly visit. We want you to be equipped with the right questions to ask yourself before you report your suspicions! 

Remember every case of trafficking is different, and there’s no single form. These questions are a guide, not a formula.

Storefront Shops

Staff Behavior Can Indicate Human Labor Trafficking

Staff Behavior

1. How are workers communicating with you?

Do responses seem scripted or limited beyond cultural/language barriers? Workers could be coached on what to say so they do not reveal details about their exploitation. Is another manager or employee watching you when you talk to the worker?  

2. Do workers seem to have no or limited social interactions at their workplace?

Their freedom of communication may be monitored by their trafficker as a means of control.

3. Does a worker not seem to know their work address or the area where the business is located?

Their knowledge of geographic location might be controlled, or they may be moved around frequently, to limit their ability to escape.

4. Do they mention being “on call” for shifts or work long hours a day?

This may be a signal that they aren’t really free to decide when and how much they work, and that the employer has constant ability to demand their labor—to which they can’t say no. While this type of employment isn’t a de facto sign of trafficking—irregular hours are a part of shift labor—if it’s combined with other red flags, it could be a sign.  

 

Store Environment Can Indicate Human Labor Trafficking

Store Environment

5. What do the working conditions seem like?

Do workers seem to have little to no breaks, excessive hours, and/or harsh working conditions? Do employers/managers seem to treat them well? 

6. Are there any safety hazards?

This may look like blocked or unlabeled safety exits, stock storage that seems unsafe or unstable in the work area, uneven pathways around the store that could trip someone, etc. If a workplace reflects an attitude of not caring about the physical safety of employees, the owners might be harming them in other, less visible ways.  

7. Are goods produced on-site?

If so, you should be able to ask the crafter themselves about their work. If they seem reluctant to speak about it, or display any of the below behavioral signs, take note. This could be a sign of exploitation or trafficking of manufacturers 

Control over finances can indicate human labor trafficking

Financial Control

8. Does a worker mention being paid less than your state’s minimum wage?

Contrary to popular belief, some trafficked persons are actually paid for their labor. It’s just that in trafficking cases, they tend to be paid significantly less than is legal, or be forced to give some of their wages back to their traffickers (as “payment” for food, housing, travel costs to the trafficking site if applicable, etc) as a form of forced servitude. In Texas, minimum wage is the same as the federal minimum wage–$7.25 an hour.

Ask Questions to Identify Human Trafficking

Ask Directly

If it is safe and you feel comfortable, you can ask an employee a few questions. Do not force answers. 

You can strike up a casual conversaion:

9. How’d you get this job?

If they mention a romantic partner or family member pressuring them to take it, that could be an indicator. Most traffickers aren’t strangers to the victim; they’re more likely to be people the victim knows directly. It’s a relationship that is being exploited through force, fraud, or coercion, and it’s important to get stereotypes out of our heads when thinking about trafficking.  

10. What made you want to start working here?

Again, if they mention pressure from partners or family members, take notice.  

11. How do you like working here? 

This can give the worker an opening to mention red flags on their own terms—long hours, owing a debt, their employer withholding their identification documents, and so on.  

What to do when you notice red flags of human trafficking

What To Do If You Notice Multiple Red Flags

Now that you have this handy list of signs, here’s what to do if you suspect labor trafficking:

1. Wait until you are off-location

In order to protect yourself and the potential victim from punishment or being moved from the location, wait until you are out-of-sight and out-of-earshot of potential traffickers.

2. Call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888

If it has taken place in the Houston area, please contact us at United Against Human Trafficking to report your credible tip. We offer direct services, including case management for victims of human trafficking.

3. Inform others of these red flags, and let them know about the issue.

Spreading awareness is the first step in this journey towards freedom for all, and community members like you are an important part of that step. Spread the word!  

Building A Free Future During COVID-19

Building A Free Future During COVID-19

Dear Friend,

One thing we know, human trafficking continues even with social distancing. In fact, COVID-19 created a perfect storm for exploiting our community.

Traffickers are grooming young boys and girls on social media. They haven’t stopped targeting vulnerable people, desperate to pay their mortgages and feed their families. 

Although this is a harsh reality in our city, we haven’t stop fighting for the safety of our families, friends, and neighbors. We know lives depend on us.   

For the last 7 weeks, we’ve been continuing our work protecting people struggling with homelessness, substance use, isolation, unemployment.

To fulfill our duty to protect our entire community and help flatten the curve, we quickly pivoted all our programs to fit the “new normal.”

Youth are staying safe from traffickers online through the prevention education videos developed by our team. Our relationships with survivors continue to strengthen as we send encouraging letters and videos. 

Clients in shelters, Spanish-speaking communities, and refugee and immigrant communities are receiving life-saving resources through the PSA’S we provide to our partners. 

Health professionals, first responders, and our community have access to our webinars for free, so they can continue to fight human trafficking. 

We continue to help survivors escape to safety.  

As social distancing incrementally lifts, we are considering how and when we will transition back to providing in-person services, while taking precautions to keep our team and our clients safe.

These are hard times. However, my heart is full of gratitude for the emails, phone calls, and messages we have received from you, asking how we are doing and what you can do to help.  

Thank you for your love, support, and engagementWe can’t do our work without you. Together with hope and action, we will build a future where all live free.  

For Freedom,

Timeka Walker, LMSW | Executive Director

P.S. There are lots of ways you can partner with us to help those vulnerable to trafficking!

A Letter to Survivors

A Letter to Survivors

A Survivor Is

A person who continues to function or prosper despite opposition, hardship, or setbacks.

person who is able to continue living his or her life successfully despite experiencing difficulties.

A survivor –beats the odds, has courage and strength, and is a true inspiration.

A survivor is … YOU.

To any Human Trafficking Survivor, to any Domestic Violence Survivor, to any Addiction Survivor, to anyone struggling to find their way, and to anyone who has felt like things would never get better, this is for you.

Dear Survivor,

You are important. You are intelligent. And what you bring to the world is impactful.

Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. Your purpose has always been bigger than your pain. You have had moments that you have overcome that many don’t know about.  Yet, you are still standing.

Your presence on this earth is meaningful. Your life lessons are meant to be shared with someone else who may have dealt with or are dealing with something you once did. You are the center of your own universe.

You are in control of your choices.

You have the most control over your own fate, destiny, and mood – which make up your thoughts, beliefs and actions. You decide how your life will be spent, and that is why you are important.

Your life matters. Your thoughts and actions can change people’s lives. You are valuable, you have purpose, and most importantly, you are a survivor.

Our world can be so negative, and people who are not empowering or happy with themselves may try to tear you down. Don’t allow it.

You are on a road to making your life the way you want it to be and even better. Remain on this road. Be happy on this road. Allow yourself the pleasure of inspiring yourself and others on this road.

I love you. I appreciate you. I appreciate you for being the individual that you are. I appreciate you for lifting yourself up when you felt like life was knocking you down.

Life is not easy, and yet, in the middle of a storm, you choose to go out in the rain and do what you need to do in life in order to get things done. I love and appreciate you for that. Always remember that there is nothing wrong with appreciating yourself and putting yourself first.

You are courageous.

You are not afraid to step out on a limb and go for your goals, no matter how difficult it may seem. It takes courage to put yourself out there, showing up day after day in the way that you do, fighting the good fight. You choose courage to brush the dirt off after a knock-down and get right back in there.

You have courage to honor your boundaries and speak to what needs speaking to, courage to not take things personally even when things get heated. It takes courage and resilience to stand strong in yourself knowing and trusting your own path, even when those you care about the most may be headed another way.

Still, when you may be criticized, you are courageous. You know it takes courage to address the things that may be hard and scary.

One thing I want you to remember is to empower yourself.

Self-empowerment is so essential. It’s also liberating because you are taking full responsibility for your life: making your own choices and decisions, and living according to your own personal operating system and values. You are free from the anxiety and fear of living up to the expectations of others, experiencing the joy of being authentically yourself.

Remember all of this, and you will go far. Empowerment is not an arrogant thing. It’s something that should make you feel good inside. If it ever makes you feel any other way, follow your own steps to eliminate that. Understand the growth that you have experienced and what is to come.

Recognize that growing is honorable.

When that happens, it shows that you are pushing yourself to become not just good, but great.

Personal growth is something you achieve consciously. It is a long-term project that never ends yet brings rewards every day. This is the project of building a self. Everyone has a self, which serves as a platform for all the things that happen over a lifetime. Upon this platform you can build a structure of values that become more fulfilling day by day. Growing is a part of life, and while it may be scary, it’s necessary to make it in this world. It’s something that pushes you far beyond places that you ever assumed you would go.

Take time every day to remind yourself of your highest aspirations, the hopes and dreams that make you most human. By nourishing yourself in this way, you are asking your highest self and soul to become part of your daily life.

To finish, I’ll leave you with this quote from Denzel Washington:

“Ease is a greater threat to progress than hardship. So, keep moving, keep growing, keep learning. See you at work.”

Continue to use your voice. You are a survivor. You are important. You matter.

Au’Vonnie Alexander | Youth Coordinator