HOUSTON — On Monday, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner announced that the city's Anti-Human Trafficking Division will expand to include domestic violence issues and focus on services and policies to address gender-based violence.
The new Office of Human Trafficking and Domestic Violence (MOHT&DV) will be led by Minal Patel Davis.
Editor's note: The video at the top of this article is from a report in July.
From the Mayor's Office:
The new office is launching a partnership with Magpies & Peacocks called the MAKR Collective to empower human trafficking and domestic violence victims economically. MAKR Collective is an independent entrepreneurship program that works in collaboration with M&P to help survivors gain valuable, life-long skills for employment opportunities in the fashion industry.
Starting in October, the MAKR Collective will be set up to transition six clients per month into the virtual 3-6-month pilot program. This unique opportunity seeks to use remote visual learning techniques to teach participants how to sew, cut patterns, learn basic alterations, and develop skills to make their first for sale product. Upon completion, participants will be paid for their work, possess a portfolio of skills, and can offer paid services to others. Participants also can become a product designer. No prior experience is required, and information sessions and application will be available in Spanish. The program also includes a range of financial supports like a stipend during the upskills period and a cash match savings program that can yield $500 in savings in 6 months.
"Economic empowerment opportunities like this one are the key to breaking the cycle of domestic violence," Turner said. "Almost all survivors experience financial abuse, lack access to financial resources, or the skills needed to be independent, keeping them tied to an abuser."
"COVID exacerbated the problem, but Houston continues to rise to the challenge. We continue to ask, ‘what more can we do to ensure all Houstonians are safe?’” said Councilmember Abbie Kamin. “Today’s announcement and the expansion of an official City office to include domestic violence in its charge is a very big deal. It ensures that the work to protect survivors and their families will continue for years to come."
“Our goal is to ensure that survivors of human trafficking and domestic violence have multiple pathways to economic stability,” Patel Davis said. “Magpies and Peacocks is the perfect partner since their model will upskill survivors locally while disrupting fashion production and the labor trafficking that results from that globally.
The MOHT&DV will also pursue additional avenues for economic security, dialogues on gender equity through community and civic engagement, focus on service deserts, and changing cultural attitudes.
The Houston Endowment, Frees Foundation, Grant Me the Wisdom Foundation, National Football League, and the Kanta K. Patel Fund are sponsors. The Mayor's Office of Cultural Affairs helped identify M&P as a partner.
Mayor Turner's Anti-Trafficking Division was the first municipal-level office of its kind in the U.S. for making a local impact on human trafficking from a policy-level perspective. The new office will now also develop domestic violence initiatives.
Magpies & Peacocks is Houston's and the nation's exclusive 501(c)3 non-profit design house dedicated to the collection and sustainable reuse of post-consumer clothing, scrap textiles, and accessories diverted from landfill.
There are resources available for domestic violence victims at http://NoCovidAbuse.org. You can also call the 24/7 hotline at 713-528-2121. If it's not safe to do so, you can text 713-528-3625.