by Jackie Piro Huyck, Soroptimist International of Vista and North County Inland
November 1, 2018, Vista, CA — November’s meeting of the North County San Diego Anti-Human Trafficking Collaborative at United Methodist Church of Vista was well attended and featured guest speaker Jamie Quient, Esq., founder of Free to Thrive.
After sign-ins and refreshments, Kaye Van Nevel of Soroptimist International of Vista and North County Inland started the meeting with several announcements.
NEWS & ANNOUNCEMENTS
- The California Senate has passed legislation appropriating $10 million in fiscal year 2018-2019 to provide services for survivors of human trafficking. This year’s funding will augment the Human Trafficking Victim Assistance Fund and allow organizations (like North County Lifeline in Vista) to continue to offer specialized services such as case management, counseling, legal assistance, social services, shelter and housing assistance to trafficking victims.
- Soroptimist of Vista/NCI’s 13th Annual Human Trafficking Awareness Walk will be held January 12, 2019 from 12:30 pm to 3 pm at the Wave Waterpark entrance in Vista. Joseph Travers will be one of the guest speakers before the walk.
- Jamie Quient’s Free to Thrive is holding a fundraiser on Thursday, November 8 from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm at the Mission Brewery, 1441 L Street, San Diego. Tickets available at freetothrive.org/tickets
- Kaye has free luncheon tickets for anyone interested in attending a Soroptimist lunch meeting the third Friday of each month at noon at Shadowridge Golf Club in Vista (see soroptimistvista.org) or email firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested.
- Randa Krakow of United Methodist Church in Encinitas has a great lending library of books pertaining to human trafficking.
- Kaye will attend the Vista Chamber’s Government Affairs Committee meeting Nov. 1 where the guest speaker is Don Stump of North County Lifeline; he’ll be speaking about Project LIFE.
- Jamie Johnson of Sisters of the Streets still needs donations of toiletries for her Purses Project.
- Holly Herring of Leap to Success announced she wants to open a women’s shelter in North County for victims of violence.
- The next Collaborative meeting will be January 3, 2019 at 9 am, same place.
How Free To Thrive Helps Trafficking Victims
GUEST SPEAKER Attorney Jamie Quient was introduced. Her Free To Thrive organization offers free legal services to victims of human trafficking. She decided to form Free to Thrive while she was working at the law firm Procopio, Cory, Hargreaves & Savitch and taking on pro bono cases for them. Jamie identified a need for legal services for survivors of human trafficking, because there was nothing out there for them specifically at the time.
“When you find out what you’re meant to do in life, the Universe conspires to make it happen,” Jamie observed. At the time, she had a pro bono case with a trafficked victim who she said is doing well now, but at the time had legal issues she needed to clear up. This victim went to court on her own to clear up the issues but there was a bench warrant out for her and she was arrested and sent to Las Colinas jail. These are the kinds of clients that Free to Thrive helps.
Jamie explained that even with legal help and getting a dismissal of charges, “dismissal” is just an expungement of the client’s record, but the record remains searchable as a barrier to employment and other things. Her client would apply and interview for a job, get it, and then the employer would revoke the job offer when they saw she had a criminal record. This particular client was on the Dean’s List at school but it didn’t matter, she just couldn’t get a job because of her record.
Then Jamie heard a speaker from Brooklyn Law School talk about New York’s “vacatur” law to completely and irrevocably clear criminal records and give survivors a clean slate. New York and 10 other states have it. As president of the Lawyers Club of San Diego, Jamie spearheaded the creation of the club’s Human Trafficking Collaborative (HTC) arm. HTC has grown to over 250 members and now produces regular trainings for attorneys and an annual Legislative Roundtable. HTC spearheaded the passage and signing of California’s own vacatur law (Penal Code 236.14) that provides restorative justice to human trafficking victims by removing any trace of related criminal charges from their record.
Once that law was in place, Jamie said, it opened up an entirely new area of legal work. She quickly filled out the necessary paperwork to form her own pro bono legal services organization for Human Trafficking survivors. It was approved before she had even gotten it off the ground, and she described the next year as “running a marathon while putting on your shoes” as she jumped through all the hoops needed to start the non profit, while the phones were ringing off the hook for her services. But she describes it as the “best job I ever had.”
She modeled her organization as a traditional legal service provider with a permanent staff plus volunteer lawyers. She made it a 501(c)(3) but kept in mind the other two models she could have adopted but chose not to (Law School Clinic for students or Law Firm taking on commitment to do pro bono work). She came up with a process so that survivors don’t have to retell their whole life story over and over, which re-traumatizes them. She calls it “trauma informed lawyering” – and said there was no existing training for lawyers on how to work with trauma survivors. Jamie and her team created a holistic, mobile (county-wide) on-call clinic connected to anti trafficking organizations like Alabaster Jar, North County Lifeline, La Maestra, Grace House, etc. She said although her office is down in San Diego, she’s up in North County San Diego all the time.
Once a client is connected to a case manager, her team does a needs assessment. For instance, is the client homeless? etc. They strive to find out what their basic needs are first, and then only after those needs are addressed do they explore their legal needs, like child custody, credit issues, psychological issues, divorce, etc. The survivor is asked “What are your hopes and dreams for the future?”
Jamie said she measures success on whether her organization has helped her clients achieve THEIR goals. Particularly in cases where the client is in jail, Free to Thrive makes sure to assign a case manager BEFORE they are released, so that they don’t just disappear after release. For instance, they will make sure incarcerated clients have a housing program waiting for them when they’re released from jail. Jamie said it commonly takes months before these women are ready to talk about legal issues.
Jamie said she does not look at her clients based on their past records, but instead sees their potential going forward. She asks herself: What is this person going to be five to 10 years from now? That is what she envisions when she looks at them and that is what drives her. She said the hardest issues her group deals with are the ones involving children. The current system sees her clients as unfit parents (because of prior prostitution, drug addiction, terminated parental rights). She said she has seen cases where the dad was the trafficker and he ended up getting custody! She said child custody cases can drag on for years and years.
Jamie’s goal now is to expand her organization to help more victims, and also to have more lawyers nation-wide duplicate what she is doing. She sees a great need across the United States for the services she is providing.
Jamie would like to raise enough money from the funding community to increase her staff. Currently she has a team of two part-time staff attorneys and 1 part-time administrative assistant and 22 pro bono lawyers and a team of law students. She needs more help and funding and she mentioned the fundraiser on November 8 down at the Mission Brewery (see freetothrive.org/tickets).
For more information about Free to Thrive, visit their website at FreeToThrive.org
The North San Diego County Anti-Human Trafficking Collaborative is a Program of Service of Soroptimist International of Vista and North County Inland in partnership with United Methodist Church of Vista. The Collaborative is a diverse group of individuals and community organizations committed to eliminate human trafficking and modern day slavery. Our mission is to raise awareness of human trafficking, provide a platform to share information, improve services, educate ourselves and the public, and advocate for policy and legislation related to human trafficking. Our Collaborative Meetings are held bi-monthly on the first Thursday of the month from 9 am to 10:30 am in the at the Church’s Fellowship Hall (lower level) at 490 S. Melrose Drive, Vista. Admission is free and all are welcome. Complimentary coffee and pastries will be available.