Before we formulated our comprehensive municipal response, we engaged in a 6-month long landscape analysis and spoke to over 250 stakeholders across the US and in Houston. This landscape analysis revealed gaping holes; the City’s anti-human trafficking strategic plan provides strength based solutions to the issues discovered. Since 2015, we have worked to execute all aspects of the city’s plan.
City Departments Not Uniformly Mobilized to Address Trafficking
- We leveraged city departments’ and divisions’ existing day-to-day duties to incorporate a trafficking response and added multiple ways to implement policies, recognize and report, regulate, screen and refer, and self-recognize and report, supplementing traditional local law enforcement efforts.
- Model policy-level solutions include Mayor Turner’s Executive Order to prevent labor trafficking in the city’s supply chain, amending the massage establishment ordinance to empower law enforcement to conduct city-wide canvasses, and the first hotel ordinance by a major U.S. city to mandate trafficking training and certification.
- The Houston Police Department’s Human Trafficking Unit was the only City department that was proactively engaged in combatting human trafficking. This was standard because of the 4 P protocol we reference on our home page and was also the case across several US cities.
Awareness Campaigns Traditionally Rely on Low-Impact PSA Spots
- We created the multi-modal Watch for Traffick media campaign and secured public/private funds for high-impact TV, radio, and billboard placements with a direct outreach component.
- We raised the level of dialogue by engaging corporations to address supply chain risks to trafficking and forced labor during Conscientious Capitalism: Labor Trafficking and Supply Chains event with 5 internationally-recognized experts in 2018.
- We reached youth and parents/caregivers with a preventative and educational anti-luring collaborative social media campaign whose impact exceeded industry standards.
- Our analysis discovered some efforts to raise awareness to the issue, however, we noticed that we would never the see the media campaign materials be it billboards or other signs in the densely populated and traveled areas of Houston. This was because organizations often took the free placements offered by partner companies. It was also a challenge to get the right awareness material into schools since the school system in Houston is decentralized; we leveraged the power of social media to overcome this challenge. The images and conversation in general were centered solely on sex trafficking with little attention on labor trafficking and almost no engagement of the corporate community and their supply chains. (put parent and caregiver bullet above the supply chains event bullet)
Survivors Lack Easy Access to Short-Term Shelter and Psychological Services
- We leveraged our legal, financial, and administrative resources to create a shelter collaborative allowing partner agencies to place victims in crisis with shelter beds we reserved.
- We placed a Human Trafficking Psychology Fellow at the county psychiatric unit to screen, provide psychological services, and refer to our Mayor’s Office case managers.
- We created a bridge to Houston’s homeless coordinated access system by placing our 2 Mayor’s Office case managers with our shelter partner at an annex office.
- Local stakeholders taught us about operational challenges as they encountered people in crisis during outreach efforts. Access to quick shelter placement and systematic access to expedited medical and psychological resources was lacking as was systematic access to established resources for long term housing.
Direct Outreach Not Systemic and Across Different Industries
- We convened a Mayoral policy task force with community-based partners to create industry-specific and multi-lingual outreach materials listing intake-style questions for distribution across 4 venues to increase victim identification.
- We partnered with the Greater Houston Transportation Company reach a city-wide audience with PSA signs on trunks to drive awareness of the national hotline.
City governments here and abroad were not broadly engaged in the fight against trafficking. We wanted to collect data on our initiatives to ensure we can speak persuasively to other governments – local and national ones – to ensure that our comprehensive model is replicated.
- We were tapped by the Department of State to engage municipal officials, non-profits, and local law enforcement during human rights missions to Canada and India.
- We harnessed the United States Conference of Mayors to present on our model response to Mayors and Police Chiefs and secured passage of a resolution calling for replication of Houston’s approach.
- Established Houston as the municipal model through our privately-funded domestic and international Human Trafficking Response Ten/Ten Municipal Fellowship providing a 2-day human trafficking immersion program.