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Combating human trafficking with SAFE-T

Human trafficking is a problem that continues to grow across the country.

The National Human Trafficking Hotline reported 5,554 identified cases with 12,011 victims in 2015. In 2021, the number of cases doubled to 10,360 with 16,710 victims. While Alaska's numbers are lower compared to more populous states, the number of cases identified by the NHTH is lower elevated from 2015 to 2021.

In 2020, the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation was formed launched a plan to combat this devastating trend.

Create new possibilities

In 2019 Madison was an intern in the planning department at AHFC and a senior at the University of Alaska Anchorage. She wrote her thesis on the topic of human trafficking and at the same time worked as a social worker.


“I already had an academic interest in researching human trafficking and looking at the data. I saw that working at AHFC allowed me to apply what I learned to create real programs that help people. That’s one of the reasons I love working here.”

– Madison, Service Program Manager, Alaska Housing


During the internship, Madison and her mentor Jennifer found out about this available funds from the Ministry of Justice. They explored the possibility, put together a proposal, and created the framework for a potential program that would provide the following safe living to survivors of human trafficking.

When AHFC received federal funding, Madison was given the opportunity to help build a new program from the ground up: Helping survivors escape human trafficking (SAFE-T).

SAFE-T

Through SAFE-T, AHFC administers grants to nonprofit organizations in Alaska Emergency shelter and support services to survivors of human trafficking. Currently, SAFE-T has two pilot programs run by sub-grantees: The Interior Alaska Center for Nonviolent Living in Fairbanks and MyHouse in Mat-Su.

Madison is now service program manager at AHFC and SAFE-T program manager and says she sees the SAFE-T model as a way to do that disrupt the potential circulation of crises and emergency operations.


“In this case, a person in crisis is placed in an emergency shelter and then receives a wide range of services from highly trained professionals who work specifically with survivors of human trafficking. Our partners help give survivors the tools they need to change their own circumstances. It can set them up for long-term success.”

– Madison, Service Program Manager, Alaska Housing


How SAFE-T works

  • SAFE-T program customers participate in one of the two pilot programs through a Referralusually from a shelter or law enforcement agency
  • The sub-scholarship recipients provide the client with program funds safe emergency shelters
  • Once safely housed, the client will receive a range of services including: medical, legal, occupational and mental health care provided by professionals who specialize in supporting survivors of human trafficking
  • The client moves into transitional housing and receives ongoing case management

Housing is the key

Research shows that housing plays a critical role in supporting victims of human trafficking. Polaris, a nonprofit organization that works to combat human trafficking, interviewed and reported on survivors 64% reported being homeless or in an unsafe housing situation at the time they were recruited into their situation as human traffickers. The survey found that homelessness or unstable housing makes people more vulnerable to human trafficking.

Find Affordable housing for survivors is equally important. A 2023 Polaris survey of survivors found that 83% had experienced poverty at some point in their lives and 43% earned less than $25,000 a year after escaping a human trafficking situation.

Because the apartment key was on the list of identified issues for human trafficking survivors, Madison was invited to participate in the list Data Subcommittee for the Alaska Governor's Council on Human and Sex Trafficking in 2022.

“I was able to educate the public about what we do through the SAFE-T program and the public housing department presented an overview of all the resources and programs we offer,” Madison said. “I think it helped potential partners understand what AHFC does and what it does See opportunities for collaboration.”


“A connection is not always made between a housing authority and services for survivors of human trafficking, but housing is critical and should be an important part of the conversation.” – Madison, service program director, Alaska Housing


National recognition

In October 2023, AHFC received an annual National Council of State Housing Authorities Award for Program Excellence for the SAFE-T program. At the time of the award, the program had been providing services 430 survivors from Alaska of human trafficking.

“I was very pleased to see this program recognized,” Madison said. “I personally don’t know of any comparable programs from other housing authorities. I'm very proud of it.

Of the survivors who were moved into shelter:

  • 86% were homeless at the time of placement
  • 80% had a disability
  • 76% had survived domestic violence
  • 52% were between 18 and 24 years old, while 35% were between 25 and 59 years old
  • 90% were female

As the program continues to serve Alaskans, AHFC and its partners are working to expand its capabilities. This includes the development of a database that can track human trafficking cases nationwide, which may assist in its deployment better results for survivors and identify opportunities for service needs.

“I wish we didn’t need this program, but since we do, I’m glad it exists,” Madison said. “The people of Alaska are really willing to work together. The Partnerships It was great to be a part of it.”


If you need housing, we encourage you to contact Alaska 2-1-1. This free, confidential resource can help you find help in your home community. Dial 2-1-1 or 1-800-478-2221 or visit us alaska211.org.

Anna Harden

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