Preble Street expands services for victims/survivors of labor trafficking and exploitation across Maine

Throughout Maine, children and adults of all genders, ages, and races are forced to perform many different types of work, including farm labor, domestic service, commercial sex work, and restaurant and hospitality service, through threats, physical and sexual violence, and psychological coercion. Since 2013, working with survivors across the state, Preble Street Anti-Trafficking Services (ATS) has supported more than 600 victims of human trafficking, enrolling over 300 people in intensive case management and housing support services. Now, thanks to funding from the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, Preble Street and partners will be able to increase services statewide for victims of labor trafficking in Maine.

“Maine has an active and coordinated anti-trafficking response, but it also has a high rate of trafficking, which especially impacts marginalized and underserved communities. Asylum-seekers, migrant laborers, individuals without status, and people impacted by incarceration are particularly at risk,” says Jade Johnson, Preble Street Anti-Trafficking Services Director. “Poverty, substance use, a lack of affordable housing, and a multitude of barriers to access needed services are just some of the factors that allow exploitation and trafficking to thrive in our state. This critical funding will allow Preble Street and our partners to support a greater number of people through a trauma-informed, strengths-based approach and enhance our efforts to combat all forms of human trafficking.”

With the award of a new $2.5 million grant over three years by the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, Preble Street, in coordination with the Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project (ILAP) and Pine Tree Legal Assistance (PTLA), will be able to increase comprehensive and holistic services, direct outreach, and solutions to exit situations of labor trafficking and exploitation within targeted industries. This funding will also help provide training to law enforcement agencies, service providers, and communities to better understand human trafficking, U.S. protections, and community resources for victims/survivors of labor trafficking.

Sue Roche, Executive Director of the Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project (ILAP) said: “ILAP is deeply grateful for the generous support of the Howard G. Buffett Foundation in expanding critical legal outreach and access to representation to immigrants exploited by labor trafficking in Maine. Being empowered with legal information, knowing your rights, and having a lawyer by your side as an advocate is vital for immigrants in escaping dangerous, inhumane, and unjust work conditions and disrupts those who target immigrant communities. ILAP looks forward to working with our partners to expand access to justice and to build a stronger safety net for vulnerable immigrants victimized by traffickers in Maine.”

“Everyone in our state has the legal right to be free from severe labor exploitation, including forced labor and trafficking, but the people most at risk often cannot access the resources needed to make their rights a reality,” says Tom Fritzsche, Executive Director, PTLA.  “Pine Tree Legal Assistance is proud to partner with Preble Street, ILAP, and the Howard G. Buffet Foundation to offer civil legal aid to Mainers in need of justice and protection from such abuses.”

As a leader in the anti-trafficking movement in Maine, Preble Street Anti-Trafficking Services offers a continuum of emergency and intensive case management services and advocacy for victims of trafficking (VOTs) in Maine. ATS has worked with VOTs throughout the state, representing all ages, genders, identities, immigration statuses, and types of trafficking, while building awareness across disciplines and providing expertise to local, state, tribal, and federal agencies.

ATS also operates the Healing Center, the only dedicated space in Maine for all VOTs to access intensive case management services, mental health counseling, reproductive health and medical connections, and on-site services from partner agencies. The Healing Center also offers a training center for workshops focused on advancing best practices in collaborating with victims/survivors towards their goals, a computer lab, supporting survivor leadership opportunities, and houses a number of survivor-led activities like support groups, yoga classes, meditation, and other requested services.