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Higgins: $600,000 for International Institute of Buffalo to support trafficking survivors


Tue, Dec 21st 2021 01:55 pm

IIB will partner with Neighborhood Legal Services to provide specialized housing & employment support

Congressman Brian Higgins announced a federal grant totaling $600,000 awarded to the International Institute of Buffalo (IIB). Funded by the U.S. Department of Justice and awarded through the Office for Victims of Crime’s (OVC) Housing Assistance Grants for Victims of Human Trafficking program, this grant supports specialized housing and employment services for survivors of human trafficking.

“Survivors of human trafficking experience unimaginable circumstances. The resulting trauma can greatly impact their lives beyond the mental health challenges they may experience,” Higgins said. “This grant provides critical funding to ensure stable housing and employment for survivors in order to help them create and maintain healthy, secure lives.”

A press release stated, “Between 2014 and 2015 alone, IIB referred 15 survivors of human trafficking to traditional housing programs funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, but the majority were unfortunately evicted within the first six months after placement. In response, IIB conducted research and concluded that a specialized program was needed to support survivors in need of housing. In 2018, the Housing and Employment Assistance to Victims of Human Trafficking program was funded by OVC, and 95% of participants have since maintained their leases. Some have even continued them after graduating from the program. Twenty survivors are currently enrolled.”

The International Institute of Buffalo Interim Executive Director Jennifer Rizzo-Choi said, "Our data shows that there is more to housing security than just finding an apartment for a survivor or subsidizing the rent. Housing crises are complex in nature and exacerbated by the acute traumas faced by survivors of human trafficking. Our specialized housing program has proven successful for over 95% of our enrolled clients, because we provide comprehensive resources that address the specific variables that threaten sustainable housing. This grant will allow our team to work with partners like Neighborhood Legal Services to expand our holistic housing services.”

This grant will allow IIB to expand Housing and Employment Assistance to Victims of Human Trafficking program by utilizing an employment specialist with expertise in employment and job retention counseling, occupational training, and workforce reentry. It will serve 35-50 survivors of human trafficking in Erie County. Additionally, IIB will provide housing interventions and related services to victims of trafficking; collaborate with and train local partners to ensure victims are identified and referred for appropriate housing and services; refer to other essential services for victims of human trafficking; and provide support services.

The press release added, “With this funding, IIB can build on the program’s success in utilizing a housing-specific case manager, offering skill-based education groups related to seeking and maintaining safe and stable housing, and providing financial short-term housing. Additionally, IIB will partner with Neighborhood Legal Services to provide civil legal assistance. Overall, the program will continue to improve access to housing and employment for trafficking survivors and offer follow-up support services through IIB core case managers who assist with transportation, substance use/mental health counseling, and medical services.”

The International Institute of Buffalo is a nonprofit organization working to make Western New York a better place for and because of immigrants and refugees. It offers refugee resettlement, and provides services to survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking. To learn more about IIB, visit https://iibuffalo.org/.

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