Over the last year, 111 survivors of human trafficking in Maine have worked with Preble Street Anti-Trafficking Services (ATS) to reclaim their lives on their own terms. Many of these individuals have received support at the Preble Street Healing Center, which marks its one-year anniversary in September.
The Healing Center opened to expand the work of ATS and provide more comprehensive services to meet the complex needs of survivors. In this safe, peaceful space clients meet with their Preble Street case worker or use private rooms to meet with their other providers. They use technology for housing and employment searches, participate in survivor-led yoga classes or art therapy, or take time to rest in the Wildflower room.
Knowing that every person’s journey toward healing looks different, ATS staff continue to grow the program and transform the space based on client feedback, needs, and interests. In early 2022, thanks to individual donors and partners like Maine Needs, they increased the amount of and type of supplies available for a more inclusive range of clothes, personal hygiene items, safe sex supplies, sensory items, and art supplies.
As hoped, the Healing Center has also become a place for community partners to come together to work with and learn from survivors of human trafficking. Survivor Speak USA (SSUSA) utilizes the Healing Center for community forums, offering space for clients to participate in policy work and support groups. And Sea Change Yoga offers survivor-led, trauma-informed yoga classes.
To end human trafficking, a crime that is abundant from the restaurants and hotels of Portland to the farms of northern Maine, we must address the root causes and broken systems that put people at risk of abuse and exploitation in the first place. In the meantime, we can do our best to support survivors, respecting their individual agency and opening the door to resources that can help them leave their trafficking situations when they’re ready.