When a women escapes from a situation in which she is being trafficked, she often has no place to go. Here in New York City, we know that women survivors may be homeless and live on the streets, or may be referred to a city shelter.
LifeWay Network responds to the critical need for housing and serves women survivors of trafficking in a distinctive way by creating a true home at LifeWay Safe Houses in the following ways:
#1. More Than Just a Bed
LifeWay safe houses aren’t just a place to stay and a bed to sleep in. They are a safe haven where women are welcomed into a true home, a supportive ‘family’ setting. Family at LifeWay means acceptance, welcoming presence and sharing life with one another. It also means offering genuine kindness and learning the skills of give and take necessary for healthy relationships.
#2. What is a ‘Host Community’?
The core of the LifeWay safe house model is intentional community. Instead of paid, overnight and weekend staff, each safe house has a ‘host community’ of three women who live there. The host community members facilitate the experience of home and family. They bring skills for intentionally building a community that honors the individual journey, allows each person to safely share their hopes and fears, and recognizes the importance of learning and growing together.
#3. Home Alone? Never!
Thanks to a cadre of dedicated volunteers, the host community and staff, there is always someone home to talk with; there is always someone present for our women residents to reach out to, whether they need something or just want to talk and be encouraged. After leaving the isolation of a trafficking situation, there is always someone to come home to at LifeWay.
#4. Taking Steps Toward Self-Sufficiency
Women are connected to the services they need to begin to heal from the trauma they have experienced, including educational opportunities, medical attention, legal aid and employment training. A licensed social worker and house manager meet with the women regularly to work with them and plan their next steps while fostering accountability and self-sufficiency.
#5. Tutoring and Mentoring
Our dedicated volunteers help the women residents on their journey towards living independently in New York City. In addition to being mentors and helping the survivors consider their strengths and life goals, the volunteers address specific needs and help them develop skills in English, strengthen social skills, learn about finances and budgeting, and navigate the city and social service systems by accompanying them to appointments.
#6. Gathering Together for Community Meals
At least once a week, the women and host community (and often volunteers, too) at LifeWay safe houses enjoy a community dinner. Just like most family dinners, this provides a wonderful opportunity for all to share with each other. The women also enjoy preparing the meals, especially sharing meals and recipes from their own native cuisines. Preparing and sharing food has a special significance, especially for those women who had little or no control over what or when they were permitted to eat while in the hands of their trafficker.
#7. Sharing Cultures and Traditions
The women residing in our safe houses come from many different countries, and in the LifeWay community they share important aspects of each other’s cultures – food and cuisine, clothing, music, dance, cultural and religious traditions. Because the safe house is one community in which unity does not require uniformity, all cultures are celebrated throughout the year. In this intentional living model, everyone learns so much by learning about each other.
#8. Out and About: Cultural and Recreational Activities
Being a part of a LifeWay community means engaging in activities that can open each woman to discover parts of themselves they may not have known. The women enjoy numerous therapeutic activities and cultural outings that encourage this creativity and personal growth, including painting, drawing, gardening, cooking, baking, sewing, and knitting. Together, they also explore the city and surrounding area by visiting museums and parks, and attending concerts or other performances, all of which bring a sense of self-understanding, peace and fun.
#9. Welcome to the Neighborhood
LifeWay safe houses are located in residential areas, giving our residents a chance to explore, visit local businesses, and know that they are part of a neighborhood. This also provides an opportunity to learn life skills that others might take for granted, such as paying at stores, navigating on public transportation, going to the movies or simply eating out at a restaurant.
#10. Stay A While!
A woman can stay with us for up to one year, giving her more of the time and support that is necessary to enable her to discover her strengths as she journeys towards independent living. When the time comes for a woman to ‘graduate’ from LifeWay Network, she may be nervous about her next steps, but she will also be empowered by her experiences to embrace her future plans and goals, knowing that she can stay in touch with her community of support at LifeWay Network.