ROYAL OAK, Mich. – Oakland County is investing in a program to help human trafficking survivors rebuild their lives and thrive within their community.
Victim advocates say pilot program, Survivor To Thriver will go beyond anything offered at most state and federal levels.
The goal is to pay for survivors to do the little things that some may take for granted, like simply going to the Detroit Zoo or getting professional development to launch a career.
“Being stuck in survival mode is not a healthy way to live,” said Human Trafficking Victim Advocate Allison Mercer.
Mercer helps human trafficking survivors across eight counties, including Oakland County.
“It can be, you know, your neighbor or someone down the street, someone that goes into the same church as you,” Mercer said. “People just don’t know who the survivors are in their community, but they’re everywhere.”
There’s state and federal funding for essentials like food and housing, but Mercer says those aren’t the only things survivors need to rebuild their lives.
“We might take for granted the fact that, you know, we can go to the movies, go to the zoo, do things that we might think, ‘oh, that’ll help distress,’” Mercer said. “Well, some people we work with don’t have that option, and neither do their kids. And so, sometimes, this program is meant to fill that gap because funding does not exist for this.”
Until now, the Oakland County Board of Commissioners unanimously voted to use $10,900 from their special project fund to help kickstart the pilot program, Survivor To Thriver.
“It’s just a great thing to be able to say, ‘oh, you want to do something that might seem so simple to us,’” Mercer said. “But they’ve never done it before, or they haven’t done it in years. And we can finally say, ‘you know what, yeah, let’s go do something like that.’”
Oakland County Commissioner Janet Jackson, the chair of the county’s human trafficking task force, couldn’t be prouder.
“I had a survivor tell me one time that a task force can be nothing more than a talk force if we’re just trying to raise awareness, doing community events, but we can touch the lives of individuals and help create a new beginning for them, that’s impactful,” Jackson said.
The county’s human trafficking task force has a meeting next week to determine a start date. For more information on human trafficking in Oakland County click here.