LA2050 Grants Challenge applications are open now through June 28th, 2024.
2023 Grants Challenge

Human Trafficking Survivor Chapter Promoting Income Equality

Rebecca Bender Initiative and its innovative online school for survivors of human trafficking, Elevate Academy, seek to expand the Elevate Professional Development Chapter in LA County. This chapter will provide in-person community and professional development resources to survivors of human trafficking, bridging the gap between income inequality, unemployment, and the discrimination that survivors often face due to a potential criminal record.


What is the primary issue area that your application will impact?

Income Inequality

In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

County of Los Angeles

In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Expand existing project, program, or initiative

What is your understanding of the issue that you are seeking to address?

The systemic issue of human trafficking, or the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act, does not discriminate; instead, it can affect a person regardless of age, race, ethnicity, gender, marital status, or income. The data shows, however, that human trafficking specifically targets the marginalized and vulnerable communities within our society in a cyclical pattern. The Polaris Project, the nonprofit that operates the U.S. National Human Trafficking Hotline, reported that nearly 83% of survivors experienced poverty while 96% experienced some form of abuse or other household instability. Our own data proves these shocking statistics of inequality to be true - of the Elevate Academy students who felt comfortable disclosing their income, 75% reported an annual income of $30,000 or less. With trafficking disproportionately affecting lower income populations, support for survivors is a crucial step to overcome income inequality in Los Angeles.

Describe the project, program, or initiative this grant will support to address the issue.

When human trafficking survivors first get out of their trafficking situation, many have no education, no marketable skills, no job history, a criminal record, and no supportive relationships outside of their trafficker to navigate the economic barriers they face. Many lack certain skills that their peers, those that are not survivors, developed through education, life experiences, and autonomy. Rebecca Bender Initiative (RBI) and its innovative online school for survivors, Elevate Academy, have served over 1400 survivor students on a global scale since 2014, providing them with professional development and economic empowerment resources. While Elevate provides survivors with an effective online program for developing career skills, leadership recently identified a need for in-person community and tangible training resources for survivors in and around Los Angeles. Enter Elevate's Professional Development Chapter for survivors in LA county. This unique, collaborative community will support human trafficking survivors in acquiring and refining the skills necessary to gain career opportunities, connect with professional networks, and, ultimately, step out of economic disadvantage. The LA Chapter monthly meetings aim to provide this safe, diverse, and inclusive space for survivors to network with other professionals, explore the career opportunities available to them, practice interviewing skills, and openly discuss the challenges they are facing in entering the local workforce.

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

The National Human Trafficking Hotline reported California as the state with the highest amount of received signals and cases of human trafficking. While trustworthy data on the dispersion by city of the statewide trafficking cases is not easily accessible, Elevate Academy data also shows that of the total students served since inception, the largest percentage are California-based, with a significant amount residing in LA County. These combined data points make the previously mentioned issue of income inequality amongst LA-based survivors a substantial concern. Through Elevate Academy's LA Professional Development Survivor Chapter, survivors will grow in their career skills, preparing them to launch into successful employment and sustainable income stability. This will reduce the income inequality across the city, raise the overall standard of living for the average LA citizen, and empower the economy for survivors.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

The LA Professional Development Chapter launched in March of 2023. Individual chapter success is measured through achieving the goals for community partnership, chapter enrollment, and volunteer advocacy. The LA Professional Development Chapter's year one goal is to build relationships with 20 local strategic partners with the purpose of aligning survivors with professional opportunities. Chapter enrollment capacity is 40 survivors, and our goal is to reach capacity by the end of the first year of operation. Current attendance averages 20 survivors a meeting with only four meetings hosted so far in 2023. Additionally, for every meeting attended, each survivor receives a certificate of attendance to a professional development training to present to their employers and to use as accumulative training hours required by their agency and on their resumes. 100% of chapter attendees stated that the certification was a successful incentive to attend meetings.

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

Direct Impact: 100

Indirect Impact: 300