Now Accepting Applications: 2017 Community Shuttles for Seniors and People with Disabilities RFQ

The Aging and Disability Services Division (ADS) of the City of Seattle Human Services Department is now accepting applications from agencies that will provide community-based demand-response transportation service for seniors and people with disabilities in Seattle and South King County. The purpose of the Community Shuttles is to provide a community-based transportation service in King County and offer an affordable and accessible mobility option for seniors and people with disabilities. Agencies that provide this service and meet the minimum eligibility requirements are encouraged to complete the Request for Qualification application. 1.1 million dollars are made available through this RFQ. Complete details and access to the application can be found on the funding opportunities webpage.

Agencies interested in learning more about this funding opportunity are encouraged to attend the information session:

Thursday, March 9, 2017

1:00 PM – 2:30 PM

Federal Way Public Library, Meeting Room 1

34200 1st Way S

Federal Way, WA 98003

The submission deadline is Friday, March 31, 2017 by 12:00 p.m. (noon).

For RFQ accommodation requests please contact: Jon Morrison Winters at Jon.MorrisonWinters@seattle.gov or (206) 684-0654.

Empowered Women Empower Women By: Kyra Doubek

“The work I do is important to me because I am a survivor of Human Trafficking – Sex Trafficking to be specific. The first time I was exploited was when I was 15 and homeless.  Off and on throughout my late teens and into my 20’s I was prostituted.  Lucky to have made it out alive, the life is four years behind me today.  I am a survivor, an advocate, and a mentor.  I am one of many who fight this problem every day alongside an exceptional team of experts.

My organization—the Organization for Prostitution Survivors (OPS)—works with community partners to end the demand for sex buying and to provide support and exit services for victims. We also provide trainings and educate the community about this issue and why “sex buying” is an issue concerning everyone. To accomplish our mission, OPS is apart of a well-rounded team called CEASE – Coordinated Effort Against Sexual Exploitation, led by the City of Seattle Human Services Department/Mayor’s Office on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault. We are a group of non-profits, public and law enforcement agencies.  The results have been phenomenal.  Nationally on the issue of prostitution, we are unique.  Similar collaborations really don’t exist elsewhere in the United States, and what we are doing is working.

Everything that OPS works to accomplish would not be possible without a group like CEASE.  Sex Trafficking is everyone’s issue – and thankfully in Seattle, law enforcement and the local government is trying something new—something revolutionary.  We are arresting men instead of women.

I recently joined the CEASE group, and as a survivor of commercial sexual exploitation I couldn’t be more inspired.  For the last year and a half, I have been working in survivor services at OPS to help survivors along their journey.  I have received mentorship from women like Noel Gomez, co-founder of OPS.  The internal leadership structure of OPS supports survivors to build a community of sisterhood, unlike any I have seen or heard of anywhere.

Not only have I personally lived my own miracle, I now witness miracles within the women I serve.  It’s important to have survivors doing this work, and unfortunately not enough survivors are.  One of the programs that the City of Seattle has supported is a diversion program.  This is where I initially met many women.  Something powerful happened in this class.  We discussed the argument of “choice” and how nobody “chooses” prostitution.  The majority of women who came through this class were survivors of human trafficking and don’t even know it.  This is why teams like CEASE, which supports one another, are so crucial to ending the demand for prostitution and helping women build stable lives without exploitation.

Unfortunately, often times the community sees prostitution as a nuisance and a moral problem, which gets placed upon the person being exploited. Many of the women who I support were around 16 the first time they were exploited.  Once you’re in, you’re stuck and you’re lucky if you ever get out.

Sex trafficking happens every day in our communities and neighborhoods.  It does not require that a person be kidnapped and driven out of state or shipped on a boat across the sea.  It’s as simple as being 16 and having nowhere to go and needing shelter and food to eat.  Poverty, homelessness, and abuse are three major contributing factors that make a person vulnerable to being trafficked.

So, we continue to work the days, weeks, and months here at OPS to serve the women that come to us.  We have forged a community of sisterhood, and sisterhood does not exist on the street.  Women come to OPS for a few things – it’s a place where they feel community, find healing, and receive services.  It is the place I found community, and where a lot of my story and path to healing began.”

 

 

Kyra Doubek is an Advocate with the Organization for Prostitution Survivors; a local grassroots non-profit organization founded by survivors and support survivors of commercial sexual exploitation. OPS provides survivor support services, outreach, training, and advocacy.  For more information:  http://seattleops.org/

The Woman You See By: Erin Drum

You may think you know the story of the woman who is walking the streets of Aurora Avenue, selling herself to men each night, and getting her fix in between each client. We see her as someone who became addicted to drugs, lost her job and relationships, and had no way to fuel her drug habit so she chose to become a prostitute. This is the narrative many of us have in our minds of the “prostitutes on Aurora.”

But this woman you see, this nameless face, is most likely the story of a little girl who was a victim of abuse and rape, pimped out by a family member or boyfriend, and given drugs as a tool to subdue her. Fast forward 10 years, a lost education, a lack of rental and credit history, criminal charges for “prostitution” (commercial sex acts that were forced upon her by her pimp), and an addiction to help numb the pain of dozens of “customers” per night… that is the woman you see walking the streets on Aurora. Not someone who chose this life but someone who was forced into selling her body night after night, left without anyone to help, and abandoned without hope.

We know this woman well, as we have served her many times at the UnBound Hope House. At The Hope House–King County’s only home for women over 24 who have experienced commercial sexual exploitation–we’ve witnessed the pain and heartache each woman faces on the street and we bear testimony to the incredible resilience and strength that lies in the recesses of their weathered souls. Each woman’s story is different, yet most bear the resemblance to the forgotten woman–the woman crying out for help with no response.

But in each story of pain lies deep hope. While peeling away layers of years of trauma, an addiction she didn’t ask for, and abuse no person should ever endure, a glimmer begins to appear. Love, connection, and consistency from our staff and members of the community allow this woman to sift through the sheer darkness of her story and discover the pieces of her identity that were stolen. As this process happens, we walk with her through each step and she begins to dream again. She picks up the pieces of who she was, develops facets of herself she’s never seen, and looks toward the future with fresh eyes, full of hope and determination. The one who started as a nameless face on Aurora has been given a second chance and is tackling her future with incomparable fortitude.

Now think back to that forgotten woman on Aurora. If she could, she would ask you, “Please look at me with eyes of compassion, not with eyes of judgment.” She would say, “I need help. Will you be the one who stops and helps?” She may say, “I’m not ready just yet to receive your help,” but you must keep offering. She will request, “I need a team of people to support me and help me recover. Can you help me find my team?” When she is lost in the darkness, she will ask of you, “Will you stand by me? Will you choose to fight for me when I can’t fight for myself?”

The power of human connection is immeasurable. What she needs–the nameless woman on Aurora–is someone who will stop, who will see her as valuable, and who will choose to do what it takes to walk with her along the path ahead.

Seattle is consistently ranked among the top cities for sex trafficking and the solution is in our own hands. Will you choose to help end it? The ways you can join the fight are innumerable. Don’t sit by passively and allow sex trafficking happen in your own backyard. Choose to do something. This is an issue that demands the attention of everyone. Visit our “Join the Fight” page on our website (www.unboundseattle.org) to learn how you can play a part in ending sex trafficking in our city.

She is waiting for you to reach out a hand of compassion and help. Will you respond to her cry for help?

 

Erin Drum is the Community Engagement and Prevention Director of UnBound Seattle – an organization affiliated with the Mosaic Community Church. UnBound Seattle opened the Hope House in May of 2015 and started serving women who had been sexually exploited. In the fall of 2016, UnBound began prevention programs for at-risk youth in Seattle-area juvenile detention centers by running weekly UnBound music therapy sessions with the goal to empower youth and equip them to prevent trafficking in their own lives and communities. For more information:  www.unboundseattle.org

The YWCA: Making Connections to Support Survivors of Exploitation By: Mille Byrd-Nisby

Commercial sexual exploitation (or sex trafficking) can happen to anyone regardless of race, age, education, or gender identity. This is something that must be taken into consideration when working with survivors of sexual exploitation and prostituted individuals.  Despite the rich resources now available to the public about the nature of commercial sexual exploitation (CSE), we are often still confronted with old stereotypes and biases.

The work that I am fortunate enough to do is both challenging and rewarding. When clients meet with me for the first time, I conduct an intake to identify areas where I may be of support.  Many survivors may present a myriad of behaviors and emotions such as fear, anger, severe anxiety, hypervigilance, or distrust.  Not knowing what to expect, survivors may be unwilling or hesitant to disclose CSE.  On the other hand, many clients have already gone through systems where they have been asked to repeat their “story” multiple times.  The manner which an Advocate initially communicates with the client is very important, because it could mean a trusting connection or a wall may be built before any beneficial advocacy can take place. I have found that communicating with clients at the onset that “I don’t need to hear your backstory to help you” sets a good foundation for relationship building.  This simple statement has opened dialogues that lead clients to trust and build an advocate-client allegiance.

Working at the YWCA, I am equipped with key resources that clients may benefit from, including but not limited to: housing assistance and referrals, education resources, job training options, and job placement.  The agency also provides Chemical Dependency and Mental Health assessment referrals, with a quick turn-around-time for appointments.

With the mission to empower women and eliminate racism, the core of the YWCA’s work is embedded in social justice. We ensure that our clients understand the intersectionality of CSE and Domestic Violence (DV).  This is an important element of our educational model, and we have found that providing women with this information strengthens and empowers them in every aspect of their lives and relationships.  I’d like to share with you a story which reflects the impact that YWCA services have made on the lives of women and girls in our community.  It’s the story of a client I will refer to as “Tiana”.

Tiana is a client that I’ve worked with for some time now. She first came to her intake/initial appointment with a hoody covering her face, shoulders slumped forward, head hung down.  She did not say a word.  After spending over an hour with the client, when she left I still only knew as much about her as what was provided by the referral agency.  That was how it began.  Over the last six months, Tiana has participated in support groups, completed mental health and chemical dependency treatment and assessments.  She has become very engaged in therapy.  And most recently Tiana completed the FareStart program and attained employment as a barista as a local hospital.

Upon our initial meeting, Tiana had many barriers. She was homelessness, fleeing her pimp/boyfriend, her child living with a caregiver, and she had several prostitution charges.  What it took was someone to believe in her.  The YWCA believed in Tiana until she believed in herself.  We helped her moved “the big rocks first”.  It has been several months now and Tiana obtained permanent housing.  She has been reunited with her 2yr old daughter, who is now living with her.  She also garnered the strength to testify in the trial of her pimp, which put him behind bars for a long time.

It is working with Tiana, and many other Tiana’s that keeps me doing what I do. It’s for all the Tianas that are still out there that I’m here.  I am honored to have the opportunity to share their journey, and want to be here to assist them in opening whatever door they choose to walk through to move forward.

 

Mille Byrd-Nisby is a Commercial Sexual Exploitation Victim Advocate with the YWCA of Seattle, King Snohomish. The YWCA provides a wide spectrum of services for women and girls including, but not limited to:  domestic violence, sexual assault, and commercial sexual exploitation victim/survivor support services, legal assistance, housing, and employment.  For more information about the YWCA:  www.ywcaworks.org.