Shelter, food, and clothing are considered to be human rights in our society and are the ground from which all else can flow. If these are not present, trauma and the resulting brain changes of “survival mode” can make it impossible to gain access to these things, resulting in a vicious cycle of desperation and exploitation. Denying access to these basic needs are some ways that traffickers gain control over their victims.
The first steps we take when working with survivors at SH/Voluntad, based on this reality, are to assist survivors to access these basic resources and then to maintain that access. We go slow, knowing that being in survival mode means that decision making can be impaired. The perception of present needs makes it hard for people to think about the future, or even trust that these basic needs can be fulfilled. It takes time to change the brain and to build trust.
Where do we begin? We have a staff team that works exclusively on finding housing to accommodate the needs of individual survivors. We have two expert housing navigators with lived experience who understand how meeting these basic needs first will change lives. We support survivors with Peer Specialists who understand how hard change can be. We encourage survivors to go slow at first so that going fast later will become possible.