By Debra Brown Steinberg, VS. Founder

In “one of the largest human trafficking studies among homeless youth in New York history,” researchers at Covenant House and Fordham University found that 48% “of those [interviewed in 2012-2013] who engaged in commercial sexual activity said they did it because they did not have a place to stay.”1 Contrast this with Polaris Project’s identification, in 2012, of only 1,644 shelter beds available in the United States to support trafficking survivors, and of this number, shelter for male survivors was “especially rare” and non-existent for labor trafficking survivors.2

Shelter is the foundation on which the cornerstones of prevention, protection, and sustainable recovery for trafficking survivors rest. VS. has been a steadfast advocate for robust shelter initiatives, legislative reform, and public/private funding partnerships needed to address the lack of stable housing that is a root cause of human trafficking. In January 2014, New York’s Governor Cuomo signed into law a bipartisan bill, championed by VS,3 which authorizes criminal courts to connect prostituted sixteen- and seventeen-year olds to shelter and other vital services in parity with services afforded to younger victims of commercial sexual exploitation. This and other Safe Harbor legislation sweeping the country provide a necessary impetus for ending the chronic shortage of emergency and long-term shelter for domestic trafficking survivors.

The fight against human trafficking starts with building safe spaces for survivors. Toward that end, VS. introduces, in its current issue, several innovative, replicable best practices models for delivering shelter services. Taking center stage are programs incorporating survivor-led social enterprises and job training resources, which recognize that “[h]ealing isn’t just physical, emotional, and spiritual, but it’s also economic”4 and that “having a job is the most important thing after having a safe place to live.”5

VS. is proud to introduce its audience to the pioneering work underway across America to shelter and heal those at risk of, and those who have fallen victim to, human trafficking. Join us in serving those who save by broadening awareness, supporting shelter programs, calling for informed policy and funding decisions, and promoting partnerships to equip survivors with the job skills and opportunities needed to build independent lives.

1 New Study Reveals Vulnerability of Homeless Youth to Trafficking (May 24, 2013).
2 Shelter Beds for Human Trafficking Survivors in the United States (Polaris Project 2012).
3 NYS Legislature Passes Bipartisan Bill to Protect Child Trafficking Victims (VS. 2013).
4 VS. Videos: Becca Stevens.
5 VS. Videos: LifeWay Network’s Sr. Joan Dawber and Cristina Kartheiser.


Community of Healing: Magdalene and Thistle Farms

Rev. Becca Stevens—Founder of Nashville’s pioneering Magdalene residential community for women who survive sex trafficking, prostitution, and addiction, and Founder/Chief Executive Officer of its survivor-led Thistle Farms social enterprise—finds “healing isn’t just physical, emotional, and spiritual, but it’s also economic.”

Community of Healing


LifeWay Network

Watch the video Sr Joan Dawber, SC and Cristina Kartheiser

Sr. Joan Dawber, SC, Founder/Executive Director, LifeWay Network, and Cristina Kartheiser, Licensed Master Social Worker at LifeWay House for trafficking survivors, discuss their partnership model for delivery of comprehensive shelter services focused on healing and successful transition to independent living.

Human Rights Program,
Mount Sinai Global Health

Watch the video Dr Holly G Atkinson

Holly G. Atkinson, MD, FACP—Director, Human Rights Program, Mt. Sinai Global Health and Assistant Professor of Medicine, Icahn School of Medicine/Mt. Sinai—discusses medical partnerships with providers of survivor services and models optimizing intervention strategies and holistic trauma-informed care of survivors in hospital settings.

Human Trafficking Division,
Erie County, New York
Sheriff’s Office

Watch the video of Deputy Sheriff Elizabeth Fildes

Deputy Sheriff Elizabeth Fildes—Program Director, Human Trafficking Division, Erie County, New York Sheriff’s Office—calls for ending the critical shortage of safe shelter for trafficking victims: “We need programs; we need housing” to give victims a way out.

Pulitzer Prize-Winning Photographer of
“Shelter from the Storm”

Watch the video of Taro Yamasaki

Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Taro Yamasaki shares the backstory behind his “Shelter from the Storm” e-exhibition, tracing the difficult path from enslavement to “salvation, from escaping to a safe house to discovering true ‘shelter’ and the growth and liberation that ‘shelter’ affords.”



Taro Yamasaki:
Shelter from the Storm

“Shelter from the Storm” pairs verse with photography to explore the essential role residential shelter plays in breaking the hold of traffickers over their victims, saving children at risk, and liberating the enslaved to pursue their dreams. Taro Yamasaki’s evocative photographs of life within these supportive houses chronicle the courageous journeys trafficking survivors make from slavery to independence, from despair to empowerment.

View the Exhibition


Marcus Hummon:
Rosanna’s Song

Grammy Award-winning songwriter and critically acclaimed recording artist Marcus Hummon performs his song “Rosanna”—a stirring anthem against human trafficking and for a justice system that shows compassion towards its victims. Marcus met Rosanna when, after suffering years of abuse, she came to Magdalene, a model residential community for trafficking survivors founded by Marcus’ wife, Becca Stevens. “I’ve been able to be a part of the journey,” Marcus says, “and to use music and to just be a part of the lives of some of these amazing women. It’s affected me. You can’t help but to be affected.”

Watch the video of Marcus Hummon


Shared Trade Partnership for Greater Social Impact

by Nicolas Hitimana, Ph.D, Founder and Managing Director of Ikirezi Natural Products, Rwanda

Ikirezi, a social enterprise in Rwanda run by widows of genocide and war, has partnered with Thistle Farms, a social enterprise in Tennessee run by women who survived trafficking, prostitution, and addiction, to “impact more people at the bottom of the value chain, who only need a ‘hand up,’ not a ‘hand out.’”

RESOLVE: New JCCA Program for Young Survivors of Sexual Exploitation

by Paul Torres, Senior Vice President, JCCA Foster Home and Coordinated Community Services

Search for Resources
In 2013, JCCA opened RESOLVE—a model specialized foster care program in New York City for victims of commercial sexual exploitation, who are not able to return to their families.

Eden House:
Healing from
Human Trafficking

by John B. Krentel, Member, Eden House Board of Directors

Founded in 2011 to address New Orleans’ critical shortage of dedicated shelter for trafficking survivors, Eden House is a two-year residential program modeled after the Magdalene residential community in Nashville.

Domestic Human Trafficking In the News

We bring you curated national, regional, and local news, reports, and articles on domestic human trafficking and related topics.


VS. Resource Guide

This comprehensive compilation of resources, organized by audience and service type, assists all segments of the domestic anti-trafficking community, including public, nonprofit, academic, and private sectors, as well as victims and survivors of domestic human trafficking.

Search for Resources

VS. Library

This online archive, organized into reading rooms for the benefit of different segments of the anti-trafficking community, gives a synopsis of, and links to, curated research and source materials pertaining to human trafficking in America.


Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP

©2013 Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP. All rights reserved.

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