White House Senior Adviser Ivanka Trump joined Attorney General William Barr on Tuesday to announce that the Department of Justice (DOJ) is awarding over $35 million in grants to provide supportive housing and services to human trafficking survivors.
Kicking off a roundtable event on the Housing Assistance Grants for Victims of Human Trafficking at the White House, both Ivanka and Barr announced details of the grants that will be provided by the Office for Victims of Crime, a branch within the Justice Department’s Office of Justice Programs.
“The Justice Department is awarding more than 35 million dollars in grants to support housing for victims of human trafficking, the largest-ever federal investment of this kind,” Barr said. “These grants, the first-ever federal program dedicated exclusively to providing housing for survivors of human trafficking, are part of approximately 100 million dollars in total grants that the department anticipates awarding this year to combat human trafficking.”
Barr also announced in addition to the financial grants, the Justice Department will continue to use “the full force of our laws and our law enforcement resources to investigate, prosecute, and punish the people behind this cruel and criminal scourge.”
The $35 million in grants will be shared 73 organizations across 34 states to help fill the “urgent need of trafficking victims.” Among organizations sharing the grants are Camillus House Inc. in Miami, Alternatives for Girls in Detroit, and the Jordan Community Resource Center in Shaker Heights, Ohio, three organizations that attended Tuesday’s roundtable discussion event.
Ivanka outlined how the grants would be used to provide anywhere from “six to 24 months of transitional or short-term housing support, including rent, utilities, critically counseling services, vocational education, and job training services, so many of the wraparound support items” to help victims “resume their lives in the most supported fashion possible.”
She cited how the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the issue of human trafficking and the “critical” need to provide securing housing due to shelter-in-place orders implemented forcing victims trapped with their offenders.
“The Human Trafficking Hotline has articulated the fact that housing assistance is the number one need, the number one service requested in all of these human trafficking-related crisis cases,” Ivanka said. “COVID made the need all the more urgent. In many cases, victims find themselves sheltering in place with their traffickers without another option. So, like with so many other things, COVID has really underscored urgency and made safe, secure, stable housing for these victims more relevant and important than ever.”
In a statement, Ivanka said that the 73 organizations receiving the grants “are on the frontlines of this fight,” adding that they ensure “survivors across our country are afforded safe and stable housing and empowered with the support and resources they need to rebuild their lives.”
Executives of organization groups, some of whom were survivors of human trafficking addressed the impact the funding will have on efforts to provide survivors the housing accessibility for one to “recover, stabilize and heal.” Participants who were victims shared their personal stories during the roundtable of how they trafficked and were able to survive once escaped through the available housing resource centers and the services they provided. One survivor cited housing as an “enormous need” following a victim traumatic trafficking experience and a “crucial component” for one to reclaim their lives
After hearing their emotional stories, Ivanka said their important voice and perspective “represent a beacon of hope for so many.”
“This president said he would be the voice for the voiceless and the work that’s being done by so many, including incredible survivors,” Ivanka said at the end of the event. “This is a great day in that these grants will undoubtedly when we hear the stories of the organizations and how many people they’ve assisted in such meaningful and tangible ways, these funds will undoubtedly be used very well to uplift many across this nation. And this really is the beginning because this president, the Department of Justice, the White House, the whole administration is fully committed to ending trafficking and modern-day slavery once and for all.”
Since President Trump took office, Ivanka has made human trafficking a focal point of her work. She has advocated in the last three years for anti-trafficking legislation, including a law intended to strengthen prosecutors’ ability to go after websites that host advertisements for commercial sex, attending several meetings and events on this issue, and hosted the White House summit on human trafficking in January. Prior to the White House Summit she helped organized, Ivanka visited two residential facilities in Atlanta that helps victims of human trafficking.
During the White House summit to mark the 20th anniversary of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, President Trump praised Ivanka for being a “champion for administrative and legislative actions to combat human trafficking and her “unwavering efforts” on this issue.
Today the @TheJusticeDept and I announced $35 Million in grants to 73 organizations to provide safe + stable housing to human trafficking survivors in 34 states.— Ivanka Trump (@IvankaTrump) August 4, 2020
The coronavirus pandemic has made safe and supportive housing for survivors more important than ever. #EndTrafficking pic.twitter.com/heZLcq3xP1
The President also signed an executive order that established a new position on the White House Domestic Policy Council focused on combating human trafficking. The order also expands on prioritizing its resources to vigorously prosecute offenders, assist victims, and provide prevention education to combat human trafficking and online sexual exploitation of children.
At the summit, Ivanka announced that the president plans to officially submit to Congress a $42 million budget increase proposal to enhance the investigative and prosecutorial capacity of the DOJ, boost grants programs supporting state and local efforts to combat human trafficking, and expand service and support for victims. The push from Ivanka was due to the 25% decrease in federal prosecutions of trafficking cases during the Obama administration.
In the coming months, the Trump administration plans to establish a national network of housing for human trafficking survivors, as well as announce more service-focused grants for trafficking survivors.