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August 31st is the Journey Out Human Trafficking Posting Project (HTPP) Outreach day. On this day, volunteers will come together to distribute human trafficking warning sign posters and raise awareness. How did you JOURNEY OUT get involved with and come to ultimately lead HTPP?

The project was originally spearheaded by the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) and was then known as the Human Trafficking Outreach Project. When NCJW sought a new home for the project, it was undeniable that our mission and work already aligned with the vision and goals of the program. We met with NCJW’s Director of Advocacy Maya Payley and everyone agreed that Journey Out would be a perfect fit. Several of our volunteers had actually participated in NCJW’s outreach events previously, and they are part of our HTPP Executive Committee. Because we do so many different types of human trafficking outreach – from street outreach to victims on the tracks to public outreach in schools and with government agencies – it became necessary to distinguish the Human Trafficking Outreach Project from our other community engagement efforts. So when we launched the program at Journey Out, we renamed it as the Human Trafficking Posting Project. Although the name is slightly different, the objectives, implementation and heart of the project remain the same. We are honored that NCJW passed this endeavor onto us and are excited to continue to grow its scope and impact.

Can you tell us more about the Senate Bill [SB 1193] that enforces that these posters are now posted in hotels and motels in California, among other areas such as bars, hospitals and transit stations? What is your opinion on this bill; how does it inspire your efforts?

 SB 1193 requires certain businesses like the ones that you mentioned to post signs that inform the public and potential human trafficking victims of resources to call for help or tips. The signs must list both the local (1-888-539-2373) and national human trafficking hotline (1-888-3737-888). If the sign is not posted, these businesses face a civil penalty of $500 for the first offense and $1000 for each subsequent offense. We are grateful for this bill, because it expands the opportunity for victims to get help. It also increases awareness and mindfulness among the general public to be on the lookout for suspicious situations and gives them something actionable to do if they think they may have encountered a human trafficking victim or scenario. SB 1193 enables us to have much needed conversations with business owners about human trafficking and be in a position to educate them about what to look for and do if they suspect human trafficking is taking place on their premises. Because it is so much more common than people realize and has been found in all of the locations mandated by the law to have the signs, we know that the hotlines are an invaluable resource.

Watch Journey Out news conference.

On your website, regarding HTPP, there is a great call out that says, “Calls to local human trafficking hotline has increased 1000% because of this project.” This seems to be fantastic progress. Where do you from 1000%? What are some of the amazing goals for this year’s campaign?

The statistics are pretty amazing. We hope to do outreach events quarterly throughout the City and County of Los Angeles. Initially we are starting with hotels and motels because of the prevalence of trafficking that takes place there. Research has shown that 63% of human trafficking incidents involve hotels[i] and the 2018 Human Trafficking Institute federal report showed that in sex trafficking cases where the location of a commercial sex act was identified, 81.5% involve a victim who was exploited at a hotel. After we reach all of the hotels and motels in the county, we will begin targeting other types of establishments. Because of the size and scope of the project, we will need lots of volunteers and hope your readers will get involved! 

By joining the HTPP Outreach day, what are some things volunteers can expect to experience?

Volunteers are going to learn so much about how human trafficking works. They are going to have a day of being out in the community with other like-minded, passionate advocates – and human trafficking volunteers are some of the kindest, most empathetic people you will meet. A lot of volunteers form great friendships and really bond over this experience. They learn together, educate together and advocate together as they speak with business owners, put up the signs if ones are not already posted, and document how businesses respond to the outreach. It is a truly rewarding experience for volunteers, as they are tangibly putting lifelines out to victims.

You have another major event coming December 7th, 2019. This is your Winter Community Awareness Festival. What do you need from our community? How do we get involved and please tell us more about the event!

 I am so glad you asked! Our Community Awareness Festival is an opportunity for everyone to rally together in support of victims and survivors of sex trafficking. It features diverse vendors, spoken word, theatrical and dance performances, music, and more! For our entertainment portion, we welcome all talented actors, dancers, and musicians. We are seeking short, uplifting pieces that touch on empowerment, freedom and pursuing one’s dreams. We would also love to have anyone who wants to sell items or have an informational booth register for a table. Beyond that, we need everyone to attend and SPREAD THE WORD! We have an event page up on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/events/917703711905521/), so please RSVP! If you are interested, you can email me directly with ideas and links (mary.david@journeyout.org). We hope to see you there!

Are there any other upcoming events we should know about? On September 20, we are hosting an Open House at our Van Nuys drop in center where people can learn more about our programs, check out the space, and meet  staff. This is a great way to see first hand the kinds of resources we have for clients and explore other ways you can get involved. It’s free and refreshments will be provided, so don’t miss it! https://www.facebook.com/events/348201502768479/

[i] Businesses to End Slavery and Trafficking, https://www.bestalliance.org/references.html