Ohio has one of the highest rates of human trafficking in the country (source), but we are also fortunate to have many forces, large and small, fighting the problem. As part 1 of my Helpful Holidays series, I’d like to highlight some of these fantastic organizations and institutions and encourage you to support them through the purchase of holiday gifts/services or donations of time, talents, and resources.

CATCH Court is a logical place to begin. CATCH (Changing Actions to Change Habits) is a specialized docket on the Franklin County Municipal Court. Judge Paul Herbert started the program in 2009 as a way to break the cycle of addiction and prostitution rather than constantly rearresting repeat offenders. The two-year program provides frequent probation meetings for accountability, counseling and support for overcoming drug addiction, mental health issues, and trauma. The CATCH Court treats survivors of human trafficking as victims rather than criminals and provides a safe path for exiting life in the streets. The program has reduced the number of prostitution arrests and helped 77 percent of graduates remain crime free (source).

Freedom a la Cart started as – shocker! – a food cart that provided a means of workforce training for adult survivors of human trafficking. They have since grown into a full-service catering/box lunch business and are looking forward to expanding into a brick-and-mortar cafe downtown. They also partner with the Community Shelter Board and YMCA to manage the kitchen at a local homeless shelter. You can support them by EATING (their food is, by my personal testimony, delish), hiring them for your next event, volunteering, donating, or educating yourself and spreading the word about the fight against human trafficking.

SHAN Cleaning stands for She Has a Name and is another social enterprise service dedicated to providing survivors with dignified and gainful employment. Three weeks before my due date we treated ourselves to a deep cleaning service and they did an absolutely amazing job. (Our house will…never be that clean again.) Our cleaner (name withheld) went above and beyond for us, even scrubbing out our grubby microwave and somehow managing to get the range *actually* stainless. (By the way, stainless steel appliances look great in theory but are absolutely terrible to maintain.) We will definitely hire them again when it’s time for a move-out clean.

Legacy Candle Company employs survivors (see a pattern here?) making beautiful hand-poured soy wax candles. They also sell jewelry made by women in Africa and partner with an orphanage in Ethiopia.

Hot Chicken Takeover is trending hard in Columbus for its fried chicken and unique mission: to employ those facing barriers to traditional employment, be it previous incarceration, homelessness, or other issues. I have yet to find the courage to taste their chicken (I’m a spice wimp), but I’ve been told it’s delicious. Check them out at the North Market!

Survivor’s Ink takes a different tack to helping survivors by giving them the opportunity to literally erase the physical signs of their bondage. Human trafficking is violent, and survivors often bear scars from abuse as well as brands and tattoos designating who owned them. Survivor’s Ink helps survivors remove, cover up or beautify these marks as they choose. You can donate to help support this cause!

Human trafficking can seem like a huge, insurmountable problem, but you can help through something as simple as buying a candle or eating fried chicken. Please consider supporting this cause this holiday season and throughout the year!