After three years since the launch of our network approach to care for survivors, the Open Doors Outreach Network has hit an extraordinary milestone: over 1,000 sex trafficked children and young adults have been served through our trauma-competent, network of care!
Voices credits this remarkable achievement to the Open Doors Outreach Team Members who work around the clock 365 days a year to ensure victims have their immediate and ongoing needs met. “Our Open Doors Survivor-Mentors, Regional Advocates and Clinicians across the state use their unique skillsets to work together, walking alongside survivors throughout their individual journeys. They have made a tremendous impact on the lives of those that we serve through a survivor-centered and trauma-competent approach,” says Open Doors Statewide Director Robyn Metcalf.
Coming Soon: Voices for Florida Housing Assistance Network
Voices for Florida is honored to accept a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to provide transitional housing to survivors of sex trafficking. This grant will allow Voices to expand our network approach to services to this population and launch a new network – the Voices for Florida Housing Assistance Network.
As mentioned in the statement released by the U.S. Attorney Lawrence Keefe, this funding will provide housing assistance to victims of human trafficking. He stated, “The U.S. Attorney’s Office is committed to working closely with our law enforcement partners to combat these horrendous crimes in Northern Florida, but victims’ struggles do not end when they break free of the criminals who exploit them. With the assistance of these grants, communities throughout our District can continue to provide them with the critical support that they need.”
Our on-the-ground Open Doors Team Members consistently report that housing is the most commonly reported need for victims of sex trafficking. Dawn Sakes, Open Doors Regional Advocate at More Too Life Foundation in the Suncoast Region tells us, “It’s often very difficult for survivors to access housing due to barriers including lack of employment or income, housing availability and background checks. This transitional housing will assist survivors on their path to self-sufficiency by providing them a safe space and a fresh start.”
Voices is currently in the process of hiring a full time Housing Liaison and working with others to develop the network. It is anticipated that the Voices Housing Assistance Network will be launched in early 2021.
Open Doors Survivor-Mentor Presented with Statewide Award by Florida Attorney General
We are so excited to announce that Chanel Dionne Toleston, Open Doors Survivor-Mentor at the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center in the Northeast Region, was presented the Survivor Advocate of the Year Award by Attorney General Ashley Moody at the 2020 Human Trafficking Summit!
During the awards ceremony, Attorney General Moody praised Chanel for the work she has done and continues to do to assist victims of sex trafficking on their paths to well-being. Additionally, Chanel was one of the first to start an adult support group for sex trafficking survivors in Duval County. This effort was an immediate success and is continuing to expand to other areas in Northeast Florida. Chanel is truly adept at identifying community needs and working with others to fill gaps in services.
Click here to read more about Chanel and the Survivor Advocate of the Year Award in our Innovation Station Blog.
Continued Innovation throughout Pandemic and Beyond
While we celebrate the milestone of 1,000 served, we know that this is the tip of the iceberg, and there are many more survivors in need of services. In 2019 alone there were over 3,000 reports of commercial sexual exploitation of children in Florida to the DCF Abuse Hotline. It is anticipated that sex trafficking of children has increased throughout the COVID-19 pandemic as children spend increased time online, becoming more vulnerable to traffickers who often recruit victims in the virtual space.
With trafficking increasing, the Open Doors Outreach Network has been steadily ramping up too. Since March we have hired 8 additional Outreach Team Members to meet the demand for services. Our network is also becoming more creative with the 24/7/365 care offered to follow social distancing recommendations. When meeting in-person six feet apart is not an option, Outreach Team Members use Zoom, phone calls and texts to facilitate clinical sessions. Video conferencing sessions have incorporated virtual activities such as yoga, crafts or eating a meal together to encourage engagement and relationship building with survivors.
In our role as the backbone organization, Voices for Florida has implemented our annual fall cohort trainings to meet the evolving needs of the Outreach Team Members. The trainings are being held in a virtual conference style with many of the presentations aimed at offering tips to improve telehealth care.
Voices and the Open Doors Outreach Network are committed to advocating for sex trafficked children and walking with them on the path to healing throughout this pandemic and beyond. Click here to support continued services to sex trafficked children through the Open Doors Outreach Network.
Did you know that Voices for Florida has launched a blog? Innovation Station is our hub for creating the change! Click to subscribe now to hear from Voices staff and our partners about innovative perspectives on latest research, findings from the field and best practices surrounding complex social problems. Our latest blog posts include:
- Robyn Metcalf Honored for Innovative Approach for Helping Sex Trafficking Survivors
- Facilitating Innovation through Virtual Field Placements during COVID-19
Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Instagram! Our social media shares the latest news stories, debunks myths around sex trafficking and creates insightful dialogue around complex social problems.
Accolades Pouring in for Voices for Florida President
Ever since Voices for Florida President Linda Alexionok announced her plans to retire at the end of 2020, our social media pages and inboxes have been bombarded with an outpouring of well wishes congratulating Linda on her next adventure.
Here is an example of some kind words we’ve received on the major impact Linda has had from Delores Barr Weaver President & CEO Vicky Basra, “As Linda retires, she is leaving behind a legacy of encouragement, achievement and work ethic that will always be part of Open Doors values. She helped build a model that has grown statewide and is changing the lives of young people. Congratulations on a well-earned retirement. Your tenacity, passion, and compassion will be missed.”
Please join us in celebrating the lasting impact that Linda has made on our organization and congratulating Linda on her next adventure. If you would like to send a note to Linda, please Click here.
To make a referral to the Open Doors Outreach Network, please contact:
- Central Florida (Seminole, Brevard, Orange, Osceola, Polk, Lake and Sumter counties): One More Child, 407-799-8719 (Seminole, Brevard, Orange and Lake), 863-255-5351 (Polk, Osceola, Sumter and Lake)
- Northeast Florida (Nassau, Duval, St. Johns, Baker and Clay counties): Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center, 904-412-8923
- Suncoast (Hillsborough, Manatee, Pinellas, Sarasota, Pasco and Hernando counties): More Too Life, 941-227-1012
- Southwest Florida (Collier, Lee and Charlotte counties): One More Child, 239-478-8649
If you believe you are a victim of or suspect human trafficking, please call:
Florida DCF Abuse Hotline: 1 (800) 962-2873
National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1 (888) 373-7888