TALLAHASSEE, Fla., Oct. 25, – The International Rescue Committee (IRC) in partnership with Survive and Thrive Advocacy Center (STAC) has received funding from the Department of Justice, securing – for the first time – federal resources specifically designated to combat human trafficking in the Big Bend, a highly rural area in Florida. The goal of this partnership is to enhance the coordinated response to human trafficking survivors, as well as to provide survivor-centric, trauma-informed services in Leon, Jefferson, Liberty, Franklin, Wakulla and Gadsden counties.
Beginning in 2019, the funding will provide $549,996 over three years to support anti-human trafficking efforts in the Big Bend, including direct financial support of STAC and the creation of a new Human Trafficking Program Coordinator staff position, based in the IRC’s Tallahassee office. Kristina Bailey will be the main point of contact for IRC’s anti-trafficking work in Tallahassee and the neighboring counties and will work in collaboration with STAC to assist survivors of all forms of human trafficking and engage the community through outreach, training and technical assistance. Services provided to each survivor include assistance in connecting with legal and housing providers, mental health counselors, law enforcement agencies and other service organizations.
Federal funding to support services and programs comes at a crucial time. Florida ranks third in the U.S. in human trafficking cases reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline. The Big Bend is particularly vulnerable to trafficking due to its proximity to Interstate 10, a known trafficking corridor; high rates of economic insecurity; a large agricultural sector and ongoing recovery from Hurricane Michael. STAC, a member of the hotline, assists survivors of both sex and labor trafficking of all ages.
Since 2003, the IRC’s federally funded Anti-Trafficking program in the Miami region has served more than 530 foreign-born and domestic survivors of sex and labor trafficking and partnered with a diverse group of stakeholders – including local, state and federal law enforcement and service providers – to build capacity and better serve the community. Thanks to the success of this program, the IRC received federal funding to expand this work into Tallahassee and the neighboring counties in partnership with STAC.
“The IRC’s locally-funded office in Tallahassee opened in 2015 as a refugee resettlement site and has since welcomed more than 500 refugees to rebuild their lives in Leon County,” said Regina Bernadin, IRC Deputy Director. “We are so glad to have STAC as our expert local partner as we expand our work serving vulnerable populations in this community. Partnerships and collaboration are vital to our fight against human trafficking. We look forward to joining the local network of providers to deliver critical services to survivors and accurate and balanced information to the community.”
STAC was founded in 2015, after the Big Bend Coalition Against Human Trafficking – led by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Florida – identified a need for an organization to assist survivors and raise awareness. STAC is the only organization in the Big Bend solely dedicated to combatting sex and labor trafficking. STAC has provided education to over 3,000 individuals including students, law enforcement, health care providers, service providers, faith communities and civic organizations.
“This funding for STAC is important because we are seeing more cases of sex and labor trafficking in the Big Bend,” said Robin Hassler Thompson, STAC executive director. “Most anti-trafficking federal dollars have gone to big cities and more highly populated areas. This funding is vital so we can dedicate support to some of Florida’s most rural – and sometimes forgotten – communities. Our partnership with the IRC, along with continued community support, will help STAC assist survivors and teach people throughout our region how to recognize, report and prevent human trafficking.”
The IRC and STAC deliver critical and accurate information, while raising awareness of human trafficking at the national, state and local levels. IRC is joining STAC in its popular monthly training series, offered from 1 to 3 p.m. on the third Friday of every month in partnership with the Big Bend Coalition Against Human Trafficking. Each month’s training has a different focus, and all participants receive a certificate upon completion. The next training will take place on Friday, Nov. 15, at Leon County Health Department, Richardson-Lewis Health Center
872 West Orange Ave., Tallahassee. All are welcome to attend. Register at: https://www.surviveandthriveadvocacy.org/action-healthcare-professionals/.
To report suspected human trafficking or to obtain resources for survivors, please contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1-888-373-7888; text “BeFree” (233733), or live chat at HumanTraffickingHotline.org. The toll-free phone, SMS text lines, and online chat function are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
ABOUT THE INTERNATIONAL RESCUE COMMITTEE (IRC)
Founded in 1933 at the behest of Albert Einstein, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) responds to the world's worst humanitarian crises, helping people to survive, recover and reclaim control of their future. The IRC in Miami opened in 1960 in response to the Cuban Revolution and, over the decades, has served tens of thousands of refugees, asylees, Cuban entrants, survivors of trafficking and other vulnerable populations in South Florida. The IRC opened its second Florida office in Tallahassee in 2015 and has since welcomed more than 500 refugees to rebuild their lives in Leon County. In 2019, thanks to the success of the Miami Anti-Trafficking program — which has served more than 530 foreign-born and domestic survivors of sex and labor trafficking since its inception in 2003 — the IRC received federal funding to expand this work into Tallahassee and neighboring counties. In partnership with generous local donors, businesses, faith communities and civic organizations, the IRC’s locally-funded offices in Tallahassee and Miami create opportunities for refugees, immigrants, survivors of trafficking and other vulnerable populations to integrate and thrive in Florida communities. To learn more visit Rescue.org/Tallahassee and Rescue.org/Miami.
ABOUT SURVIVE AND THRIVE ADVOCACY CENTER (STAC)
Survive and Thrive Advocacy Center assists human trafficking survivors and empowers communities to recognize, report and prevent trafficking. As a member of the National Human Trafficking Hotline, STAC is the only organization in the Big Bend assisting all sex and labor trafficking survivors, regardless of age, immigration status, gender or other status. STAC provides direct support to survivors and partners with other organizations to connect survivors to the resources they need to experience freedom and fulfillment. Our training programs for professionals and for the public provide information on how traffickers operate and teach individuals what to do if they suspect trafficking. Our consumer education programs offer insight into where our food and other products come from and promote farms, restaurants and retailers that are dedicated to supply chains that do not include trafficked labor. With community support, we are building a network of people and organizations who stand with survivors and work to prevent human trafficking. Visit surviveandthriveadvocacy.org for more information.
Deputy Director, US Programs Florida
International Rescue Committee
305-640-9881, Ext. 200
Regina.Bernadin [at] rescue.org
Robin Hassler Thompson, JD, MA
Survive and Thrive Advocacy Center
robin [at] surviveandthriveadvocacy.org