By Jessica Hubley, CEO @AnnieCannons
In every AnnieCannons class, we brainstorm problems that led to the exploitation of the human trafficking survivors in our classroom. Since our very first class, one problem has come up again and again:
The continuum of care – or the series of services and interventions necessary to see a survivor permanently leave their situation of exploitation and build economic independence – has material gaps.
Some survivors experience these gaps when they are asked to personally call a long list of phone numbers to see whether they are even qualified to receive help from that provider, which drives disappointment and hopelessness, and may even require the retelling of a traumatic personal story. Some survivors describe needing to “hack” the system to actually get what they needed in ways they want to share with others to save future survivor in need necessary pain and re-traumatization. Still others note that the services an organization claims to provide (particularly mental healthcare) are not really available, or not available from a professional qualified to offer those services. Our Bay Area students generally report being in an out of 3-7 shelters before joining our program and finding their path to economic self-sustenance.
Service providers, on the other hand, are struggling to secure funds to operate – and this struggle is especially poignant in the Bay Area, where AnnieCannons currently recruits. High housing prices mean much fundraising is required to provide shelter itself, and funders often expect that a shelter facility will provide Case Management and other elements of the continuum of care, too. Shelters, especially those that use government grants to operate, face onerous and often nonsensical grant reporting requirements that dictate their data collection and handling practices – even where human beings could be better served in another way.
Many groups have built case management platforms intended to help shelters, case managers, and other workers in the continuum of care manage their beneficiaries. Often, the reason cited to us by a Bay Area shelter for not using that tool is simply “we have too many places we have to enter data already.” In addition, these tools are designed with the assumption that one individual is one case to one organization, so they do not endeavor to track where multiple organizations have served the same survivor, what services they provided, or how effective those services are.
The process of referring a survivor to other organizations along the continuum of care is also friction-full. First, organizations face confidentiality concerns in telling another org about an individual survivor, and have no decent means of recording survivors’ consent to share info on more than paper forms. One Executive Director told us that if we could simply automate the printing of contact information and directions to accompany a referral, we’d save her staff considerable time.
Now, AnnieCannons is working with Tech4Dev, and with the support of the Chintu Gudiya Foundation, to conduct detailed product research on a survivor-centered solution. Over the years, it has become clear to us that the myriad issues around successfully applying technology to close gaps in the continuum of care – from survivor privacy and confidentiality, to survivor -re-trafficking, to traffickers monitoring phones, to impact reporting, to full feedback loops about services received and provider criteria, to effective referrals, to avoiding re-traumatization – are simply better solved by a solution that puts the survivor at the center of the design process.
Along the way, we’ll consulting closely with a select group of Bay Area housing and case management providers to carefully analyze the technologies they use, their pain points in using that technology, their core needs, and any process upgrades (including both analog techniques and free digital tools they may not be using yet).
We will continue to post here about the scope and process of our research, but if you are a Bay Area shelter or case management provider and you would like to participate in the consulting offering, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.