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Nancy's House

Restorations has long advocated for specialized residential programs to address the unique concerns and needs experienced by survivors of human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation. While more social services have received training regarding trafficking and exploitation, many of our clients still face challenges in accessing generalized services that do not adequately understand their complex needs. Lack of safe, supportive, and specialized housing often prevents people from leaving exploitative and abusive relationships, or can play a factor in their decision to return to such relationships after attempting to leave. 

Nancy’s House, our long-term transitional home for survivors, will be opening this spring and provides a bridge between first stage emergency shelters or short-term safe houses that address immediate needs and independent living. This critical and essential form of housing contributes to a survivor’s healing journey. Survivors need safe, supportive spaces where they can focus on physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual healing and recovery, and not have to worry about financial stressors, safety concerns, or navigating employment or education alone while coping with the effects of trauma. Without a safe place to call “home,” victims and survivors face challenges in coping with and overcoming their histories of exploitation, trauma, and abuse.  

Survivors of human trafficking are at increased risk of homelessness and re-exploitation

As we are preparing to welcome our first residents and provide them with a home for up to two years while receiving services like counseling, education, job preparation and readiness skills, peer support, and life skills development, we are aware that we will be welcoming them with open arms while simultaneously beginning the process for identifying where “home” will be next for them. This is because access to affordable and safe housing is increasingly difficult to find, not just for survivors of trafficking and exploitation, but for many others.

With long wait lists for accessing subsidized (or rent-geared-to-income) housing, gentrification, and rapidly rising housing costs, securing safe and affordable housing for individuals experiencing marginalization can be precarious. Survivors of human trafficking are at increased risk of homelessness and re-exploitation when housing is jeopardized. Some survivors find themselves resorting to couch surfing or living with unsupportive or unsafe family or friends because they lack other housing options. Individuals who have left the sex trade might find themselves at the cross roads of difficult choices if their income is not substantial enough to obtain a safe place to call home. When individuals are faced with stress and concern around housing, it can have an impact on their overall well-being and mental health. 

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

Matthew 25:40-45 (NIV)

As I’ve spoken with congregations about Restorations’ work to provide specialized, long-term housing supports for survivors, I’ve had people approach me about making bedrooms in their homes available for those in need. The hospitality, empathy, and care that these individuals demonstrate - especially as an expression of a faith that encourages caring for “the least of these” - is beautiful. However, I think it is important for individuals and faith communities to recognize their own limitations and challenges to coming alongside people in need. While the church can certainly be a place of spiritual healing for many, some faith communities overestimate their abilities to provide trauma-informed services that are best left to other better trained and equipped organizations. Many individuals escaping human trafficking and looking for long-term support to overcome their traumatic experiences require trauma-informed, specialized support to adequately address their needs. Many are at high risk of significant psychological and mental health challenges, substance use and addictions, or safety concerns.

But there are many ways our faith communities can address housing concerns - not just for survivors of human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation - but others facing precarious housing situations. 

  1. In many communities, there are strategic approaches being taken to address housing issues and concerns. There are agencies providing supportive living environments, and the church can support these local initiatives in a variety of ways. 

  2. Discover local, regional, and federal organizations advocating for better policies and legislation that address affordable housing and other intersecting issues. Don’t know where to start? Reach out to a local housing organization for resources and connections. 

  3. Churches are partnering with their broader community to find creative solutions together. Discuss ways that your faith community can use its position, privilege, or resources to address affordable or safe housing.
    (To inspire you, read about the First Reformed Church of New Brunswick, the Town Clock Community Development Corporation, and their work to provide sanctuary for survivors of domestic violence)

Photos of Nancy's house provided by the author.


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