Human trafficking (HT) remains a problem that affects too many women, perpetuating cycles of family and community violence that significantly hinder well-being. Despite the importance of HT, there has been a noted lack of longitudinal research regarding services related to HT survivors. One important HT intervention is the provision of housing, as many survivors find themselves without a permanent residence once they leave trafficking. To help address research gaps concerning HT services, this study comprised an evaluation of a housing intervention called Safehome aimed at caring for foreign-national HT survivors. Developed in 2011, Safehome is a long-term housing program that provides survivor-centered services in the New York metro area. Safehome’s underpinnings are rooted in trauma-focused and survivor-centered practices. To date, Safehome has served over 60 women from 29 countries accounting for over 17,000 nights of housing. Given the dearth of research on HT services to-date, this study aimed to (a) demonstrate the acceptability and feasibility of the evaluation methods and (b) investigate promising trends in key outcome data.
To achieve the study aims, Safehome’s developers partnered with a team of university researchers in 2017 to evaluate the intervention. The practitioner-researcher team developed protocols and measures for evaluation based on extant evidence and expert feedback. Measures comprised six psychometrically validated measures related to stress (Perceived Stress Scale), coping (Brief COPE), depression (Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale), post-traumatic stress (PTSD Checklist for DSM-5), post-traumatic growth (Post-Traumatic Growth Inventory), and general physical and mental well-being (The Short-Form Health Survey). Analyses included descriptive (M,SD) and inferential statistics (unpaired Welch’s t-tests).
The preliminary sample included 24 women who had participated in Safehome for ≥ 12 months as of the fall of 2017. The mean age of the women was 35.3 years and 50.0% were undocumented. Women were found to be from 15 different countries of origin. Outcome results found that all six outcomes demonstrated trends towards improvement such that women’s mean scores moved in the direction (+/−) hypothesized by the program’s conceptual model. Statistically significant improvements at 12 months were found using one-tailed tests for depression (Δ: −25.2%; p= .049) and post-traumatic growth (Δ: +29.7%; p= .004). Also, a sizable improvement was found for post-traumatic stress reduction (Δ: −31.2%; p= .126, one-tailed) that would likely be statistically significant with a larger sample size. Brief qualitative interviews confirmed that the program has been valuable in aiding women’s transition into recovery.
These findings show real promise to inform HT research. Specifically, the improvements to mental well-being suggest that housing programs like Safehome have the potential to positively support survivors’’ journey towards successful transition back into the community. Despite limitations, this preliminary analysis has promising potential to address knowledge gaps as researchers seek to build HT program research. These findings are likely to be of high interest to SSWR attendees given the 2019 conference’s theme and will be well suited for attendees focused on the conference cluster of “Violence Against Women and Children.”