The Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority announced Thursday that it had secured a $15.6 million financing plan that paves the way to begin construction on an affordable housing community to serve survivors of human trafficking.
The project, named Harriet’s Hope for slave-turned-abolitionist Harriet Tubman, who helped others escape slavery, is set to be built on the site of a former motel in Franklinton that was demolished last year. The project aims to serve as a haven for survivors of human trafficking and offer resources to give them independence.
The project is a partnership of the CMHA and Beacon 360 Management, a minority- and woman-run nonprofit real estate development and management firm based in Columbus that is focused on advocating for vulnerable populations.
Charles Hillman, CHMA president and CEO, said that the housing authority and partners are committed to making the vision a reality, pointing to an urgent need to address the victims of human trafficking in Ohio.
Ohio ranks fifth among states for human trafficking, according to a 2020 report from the Ohio Department of Health. A 2021 report showed that the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Ohio, which includes Columbus, charged the second-highest number of federal human trafficking defendants in the nation in 2020.
Human trafficking in Ohio: Report finds Southern Ohio charged second highest number of cases in 2020
First project of its kind to address housing for trafficking victims in Ohio
Harriet’s Hope is the first project of its kind in Ohio and most likely in the nation, advocates of human-trafficking survivors say. CMHA and Beacon 360 management secured funding from eight sources to construct the project, tentatively expected to be completed in late 2023.
Funding sources include the Affordable Housing Trust of Columbus and Franklin County, the City of Columbus, state funding and other organizations like the Ohio Capital Corporation for Housing. Catherine Cawthon, CEO of OCCH, said providing housing to survivors was step one.
“With the development of Harriet’s Hope, we are creating a housing community that will help its residents overcome trauma, promote healing, inspire independence and instill confidence,” Cawthon said.
Partners involved in the project plans to introduce programming to help future residents immediate and long-term goals, and hopes to create “a system of care that helps individuals become and remain stably housed,” a release said.
The campus will include one- and two-bedroom apartments, a multipurpose space, meeting rooms, recreational and green space, and the women who live there will have access to on-site computers and laundry, the Dispatch previously reported. Because of the connection between substance abuse and human trafficking, the complex will be drug and alcohol-free, focused on a "victim centered community" designed to provide ongoing support with substance abuse recovery.
The Salvation Army will handle on-site case management and Alvis will provide addiction recovery services, among other community organizations assisting in the project.
Celia Kendall, the CEO of Beacon 360, said that it is important that the housing complex provide resources to those who have escaped from a life of sex trafficking, and emphasized the innovation the project is aiming to provide.
“We’ll be providing a holistic and trauma-informed approach to service delivery … to encourage rehabilitation and self-sufficiency,” Kendall said.
This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Project to house trafficking victims secures funding to move forward