Introducing our 2018/2019 Grant Partner: Restore NYC
Over the past five years, Dressember has raised over $5 million in the fight against human trafficking. So where does that money go?
Through grants, Dressember has been able to forge partnerships with various organizations on the front lines of the fight against human trafficking, both globally and domestically. As Dressember has expanded over the years, so has the number of organizations to which Dressember has been able to offer grants.
This year, Dressember is expanding its grant partners like never before, adding nine incredible organizations as benefactors of this campaign. I have the distinct privilege of introducing you to one of Dressember’s newest grant partners: Restore NYC. Restore NYC is nationally recognized for its leadership in identifying and helping trafficked women. Its mission is bold: “End sex trafficking in New York and restore the well-being and independence of foreign national survivors.”
According to its website, Restore NYC was born out of a “curiosity that became a calling.” In 2009, Faith Huckel, Restore NYC’s founder, learned that services to support foreign-national women who had been trafficked were nonexistent. Since then, it has grown from serving 19 women in its first year to 319 this year; from two clinical staff to a strong core team of twenty; and from one program to three. I had the opportunity to interview its Chief Program Officer, Dr. Amanda Eckhardt, about the incredible work Restore is doing and the vast impact it’s had.
When asked, “What sets Restore NYC apart and allows it to have such significant impact?,” she pointed to its specialization in housing and economic empowerment initiatives, how it engages and serves through a survivor-focused lens, the collaborative nature of Restore, its innovative approach to outcome tracking, and the fact that 30% of its staff has gone through the program or a similar program.
“[Restore] believe[s] trafficking is a problem with a solution,” she said. It is working to tackle that problem through its four-pronged strategy: Identify, Serve, Measure, Train.
Identification is a crucial first step. Restore receives referrals from a growing number of sources comprised of court systems, NGOs, law enforcement, and self or peer-to-peer referrals. Foreign-national victims of trafficking face numerous challenges, such as language barriers, shame, lack of U.S. life skills, debt bondage, and immigration and work authorization needs, which make it difficult for victims to come forward and identify as survivors themselves.
Once identified, the door is opened to Restore’s resources, comprised primarily of its housing and economic empowerment programs:
Housing Program: Restore offers three types of housing services - emergency, transitional and independent living - which all serve to meet different needs. The transitional housing unit, “Safehome,” is designed to promote holistic recovery for approximately 12 to 18 months. Opened in 2010, it is the first long-term housing dedicated to foreign-national victims of sex trafficking in the Northeast.
“Safehome” follows a low-barrier model, which essentially means that there are no curfews or requirements. Research suggests such rules can be re-traumatizing to victims. It also follows a “housing-first” mindset, which is the idea that “safe housing is a right and the first point of intervention.” Once housing is attained, then other issues, like mental health, substance abuse, and employment, can be addressed.
Economic Empowerment Program: The number one request Restore receives from survivors is to “help [them] find work.” The same barriers that make it challenging for foreign-national victims of trafficking to come forward also manifest themselves in their ability to find safe job opportunities. A survivor’s criminal history, oftentimes based on crimes committed under the duress of their trafficker; their lack of access to “above-ground” opportunities; and unsympathetic employers compound these issues. Restore’s two-fold economic empowerment program responds to this overwhelming and challenging need.
In this program, women enter an 8-week “work readiness program” to learn job and life skills through one-on-one coaching, peer-supported group settings and targeted workshops. Upon graduating this program, they can enter into Restore’s unique and innovative social enterprise cooperative and are connected with a job partner. The cooperative is wholly owned by the survivors themselves, which is important to restoring a sense of autonomy and dignity to survivors. Restore differs from other job programs by engaging with diverse businesses in order to offer survivors options when choosing a job. These choices are a fundamental aspect of empowerment for women whose ability to choose had been stolen throughout their exploitation.
The impact of the economic empowerment program extends beyond the individual lives of the women who go through it. I learned of a woman, who through Restore’s programs, was able to transition out of her trafficking situation and into safe work and housing. However, it wasn’t just her life that was forever changed, her son now has the opportunity to attend university. Roughly 70% of the women Restore serves are mothers with fierce desires to provide for their family. Their changed lives create generational change and begin a “legacy of freedom.”
Restore takes a comprehensive approach when it comes to the “Measure” aspect of its model, or as Dr. Eckhardt said, “measurement is baked into [its] service.” Restore collects data from clients from the very start, every three months, and for 6- and 12-month follow ups, and uses that to assess program effectiveness and inform changes to its strategies to maximize impact. Restore analyzes its impact across four key indicators: Identification, Freedom, Well-Being, Engagement, which you can read more about here.
While the organization is called Restore NYC, it hasn’t limited its impact to New York City. When contemplating “How do we want to advance the field?,” Restore chose to expand its influence and train other organizations, as opposed to opening new branches. Since 2016, Restore has provided training and technical assistance to over 200 agencies including Delta Airlines, the NYPD and the U.S. Department of Justice.
At Dressember we believe women are sacred and worth fighting for. Dr. Eckhardt taught me that “economic empowerment and [safe, not exploitive] job opportunities with competitive wages” are crucial in the fight for these women and against human trafficking. Restore is on the forefront of tackling those needs. In partnership with Restore NYC, Dressember will serve to add key staff to place survivors in sustainable, life-giving, and safe employment through Restore’s worker-owned cooperative to continue to advance the fight for freedom.
Raise your voice against slavery this December!
Commit to wearing a dress or tie every day in December. You'll challenge yourself, expand your knowledge on modern slavery, and be equipped to lead your community in the fight to end human trafficking. Registration is open for Dressember 2018 and fundraising has already started! Be a part of the impact for our local and global partners by creating your campaign page today!
About the Author
Jacquelyn Chauviere Buss is a Diet Dr. Pepper addict with a deep love for people - especially babies. She recently graduated from Texas A&M University with a degree in Business Honors and a minor in Psychology. She is passionately hopeful to see slavery eradicated in her lifetime.