As a winner of the Pathways to Freedom city competition, Atlanta will receive funding to develop and implement a first-of-its-kind citywide approach to prevent trafficking and address unmet needs of trafficking survivors.

Twenty-four cities nationwide were eligible to participate in the competition, and Atlanta, Chicago, and Minneapolis were selected as winners. All three cities will receive funding for labor trafficking technical assistance and to support a senior fellow’s salary for two years.

The fellow will work across city agencies and with a range of community stakeholders to develop coordinated, citywide solutions to trafficking.

The Pathways to Freedom city challenge is funded through the Partnership for Freedom, a public-private partnership created by Humanity United and dedicated to spurring innovation in the fight to end human trafficking. Pathways to Freedom, the Partnership’s third challenge, is led by Humanity United and the NoVo Foundation.

“Cities have a critical role to play in the fight against human trafficking, and we are excited to support our winning cities as they develop new ways to address prevention and support for survivors,” said Catherine Chen, director of investments for Humanity United. “The impressive collection of applications we received is a testament to the growing political will of U.S. cities to lead the fight against human trafficking in their own communities. Atlanta demonstrates a serious commitment to addressing both labor and sex trafficking in a unique way. We are confident that the lessons that come out of Atlanta, Minneapolis, and Chicago will inspire and encourage innovation in their own communities and across the country.”

Thirteen mayors from major cities across the nation submitted letters of support and competed for this critical opportunity. The competition was open to U.S. cities in the 100 Resilient Cities network.100 Resilient Cities—Pioneered by The Rockefeller Foundation (100RC) helps cities around the world become more resilient to the physical, social, and economic challenges that are a growing part of the 21st century.

Despite growing awareness of human trafficking, gaps remain in preventing both labor and sex trafficking and supporting survivors to recover. Too often, public health, human services, labor enforcement, legal services, housing, immigration, and other systems fail to identify individuals at risk of trafficking and may not have services that adequately assist victims and survivors. As a result, trafficking survivors often cycle in and out of city systems without receiving the assistance they need. However, cities are well-positioned to close some of these gaps, and Atlanta will lead by example through the Pathways to Freedom challenge.

“Every year, thousands of children, women, and men fall prey to the insidious practice of human trafficking. Whether these victims are entrapped in or transported to Atlanta, we know that our city faces a human trafficking challenge disproportionate to its size,” said Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. “I am pleased to announce that I will appoint a Senior Fellow within my Administration to further the City’s efforts to combat and eliminate this horrific practice.

“The Pathways to Freedom grant will also enable Atlanta to better address labor trafficking, which has traditionally been under-reported, and its survivors under-served. I am confident that together, we can be the strength for the powerless and the hope of the victims,” her statement continued.

This opportunity will enable Atlanta to approach trafficking in new ways by encouraging them to consider new policies for the city, new practices for social service providers, additional funding and resources, and new relationships between cities and communities impacted by trafficking including survivors, anti-trafficking advocates, community organizations, employers, and service providers.

“Our hope is that all three of the challenge winners will demonstrate that the most effective and innovative work to end human trafficking is deeply grounded in the experience of survivors themselves, especially the most vulnerable, including survivors of color, Indigenous survivors, immigrant survivors, LGBTQ youth, people with disabilities, and those struggling with addiction,” said Pamela Shifman, executive director of the NoVo Foundation. “By more effectively meeting the needs of survivors, these cities will shine as a model of what’s possible for other communities across the country.”

As cities progress on developing new approaches to labor and sex trafficking, findings will be documented on PathwaystoFreedom.org and shared with city leaders and service providers around the nation. Sharing tested approaches between cities ensures that cities can learn from one another and facilitate their anti-trafficking leadership.

Pathways to Freedom is the third and final innovation challenge issued by the Partnership for Freedom to spur innovative solutions to end modern slavery in the United States and around the world.

The first challenge, “Reimagine: Opportunity” focused on spurring innovation in victim services. The second challenge, “Rethink Supply Chains” identified developers, designers, advocates, and innovators to submit concepts for technological solutions that identify and address labor trafficking in global supply chains for goods and services.

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