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#138 – Economic Empowerment for Human Trafficking Survivors

Summary of the Situation

Since 2007, Lifeway Network, founded and supported by Catholic Sisters, has operated safe houses for human trafficking survivors in the New York metropolitan area.
Lifeway recognizes that human trafficking is the result of many overlapping forms of systemic oppression. Traffickers often prey on financially vulnerable individuals, such as those experiencing poverty, unemployment, homelessness, or forced migration. To provide survivors with the necessary skills and resources to achieve financial independence, Lifeway offers a comprehensive economic empowerment program.
Through workshops led by a dedicated care team and volunteers, survivors are taught how to create their own resumes, improve their interview and job skills, create an email account, and learn personal banking and financial literacy. In 2021, Lifeway created a “Dress for Success” closet, ensuring survivors have access to professional and dignified clothing for interviews and supporting their ability to access gainful employment.
The economic empowerment program is facilitated weekly in the safe houses. The program’s impact is significant: 155 survivors have participated. 79% have found employment and/or started small businesses. Of the 155 survivors who participated in Lifeway’s safe housing program, none have returned to trafficking.

How will the funds be used?

Lifeway Network is seeking funds to support and expand the economic empowerment program. Currently, the program is being facilitated by a qualified Director of Safe Housing, a licensed social worker, social work interns, volunteers, and religious women in supportive roles. In addition to the facilitators, the program relies on equipment and resources to ensure effectiveness. To run a computer literacy and economics program, computers (laptops and tablets) are needed for training, business training materials, typical office supplies and furniture (e.g., computers, printers, projectors, whiteboards, software such as Microsoft Office Suite, books, manuals, handouts, reference materials, furniture, audiovisual equipment such as microphones for guest speakers, and a backup power supply – generator). Funds will also be used to augment salaries for those running the program and stipends for guest speakers.

The Sisters’s Response

Sister Joan Dawber, a Sister of Charity of Halifax, founded Lifeway Network. Several congregations of women religious were instrumental in establishing the network, and sisters are active on the Board of Directors of Lifeway Network. Also, each safe house has a 24/7 live-in support community of religious women who help foster relationship building, mutual learning, and growing each other’s strengths.

Systemic Impact

Economic instability among survivors can result in unemployment, homelessness, and, in some cases, their return to a situation of trafficking.

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