Every month we highlight another organization engaging in the work to fight human trafficking. This March we highlighted The Landing, an organization we’ve worked with for the past five years. A 2nd Cup Executive Director, Erica Raggett, speaks with Cara Parker, Executive Director of The Landing to share more about the work they do.
Erica: Hi. I’m Erica Raggett, Founder and Executive Director of A 2nd Cup.
One of the priorities of our organization is to collaborate and support partners in the work that we do to end human trafficking. And one of the ways that we do that is by choosing an organization each month to highlight and support financially with proceeds from our Split Shot drink of the month. And this March we have chosen The Landing, an organization that we have been partnering with for five years. In fact, we were lucky enough to host their launch party when they were founded five years ago, so they are very near and dear to our hearts. We love this organization and we greatly value their work and partnership. And I would love for you to hear a little bit more about what they do.
So, I’m here today with Cara Parker, Executive Director at The Landing, to hear more about the vital work that they do. Cara, thank you so much for being here with me today.
Cara: Yeah, thanks for having me.
Erica: I would love to just start off by having you give us an overview of the work that you do at The Landing.
Cara: The Landing is about a 5-year-old organization. We’re down on the Bissonnet track in Southwest Houston, so you know one of the major hotspots for trafficking and prostitution in the Houston area. We have a drop-in center that’s just a safe space where anyone who has been trafficked or is in the commercial sex trade can just walk in. They can get basic needs met. They can get things like food or clothing, have a place to rest. We have case managers who work with them on a range of goals. Things like housing or employment or education. And we have counselors who kind of work with them as well and addressing some of the trauma or hears the issues that they’ve experienced while in the life.
We also engage in outreach to the area, so street outreach and online and just try to get the word out about the services that we have that are available to victims. And then we also, last year, launched the youth advocacy program. So, we work with children and young adults who have been trafficked, kind of, in coordination with law enforcement, DFPS and others. So as these kids are identified, they have an advocate who is on a 24/7 crisis response and comes meet them where they are and then just kind of walks alongside them throughout their recovery journey and builds a relationship with them. So, we’re really able to engage with a lot of survivors in the city in different ways, and we just try to be a resource to the community.
Erica: That’s awesome. I think your work is so important in just having that initial contact with individuals who are in a really hard situation. I so appreciate that.
You know, we talk about, in this anti trafficking field, that anyone can be trafficked, right? I’m curious, in your work with clients, do you notice common themes that make someone, some individuals or communities more vulnerable than others.
Cara: Yeah, definitely, it’s a great question. I mean, yes, you know, anyone can be trafficked. Anyone can be a trafficker. And I think there are a lot of areas where there are misconceptions around that. But I would say in terms of themes that we see and one of the major vulnerabilities is just poverty. We see that as a common theme where people are just trying to take care of themselves with their families and they’re in really vulnerable situations where they don’t have access to stable housing or food or employment. So you know, this is kind of the option that’s available.
I would say, you know, we also see patterns where people who’ve experienced childhood trauma and abuse of different sorts is very high. You know people have entered in the foster care system, runaway youth.
And then just kind of within our clients, you know, most of our clients are women and most of our clients are women of color. In particular, the majority of our clients are African American, and so I think we definitely see where just within our clients, but also research has shown that communities of color are at greater risk because of some of the systemic inequalities and different vulnerabilities in those communities, so there are definitely some pretty prevalent themes in the people that we serve.
Erica: I think that a lot of times, we in this field and people who are initially learning about trafficking, kind of think of it happening in a vacuum. It’s like thing that happens on its own without any other things filtering into it. But I think the reality is that there are so many other issues that contribute to the likelihood that someone could be trafficked or exploited.
As March is Women’s History Month and you just mentioned that a lot of your clients are female or female identifying, can you share your thoughts on the impact of gender equity and human trafficking?
Cara: Yeah, the majority of our clients are women and even kind of broader reports have shown the majority of trafficking victims are women and girls, and you know, I think that’s for a range of reasons. I think one of the things that we see is just there’s such a prevalence of violence against women. And really, the objectification of women as well. And I think those really put women in positions where they are more vulnerable to then being exploited and abused and trafficked and so that’s kind of one of the things that we see.
Erica: So once clients are working with you, what are some of the biggest challenges that you see them facing? And then what are some of the ways that The Landing walks along with them as they are overcoming those challenges?
Cara: Yeah, I think you go back to poverty. That’s a major challenge. And so you know, I think whenever you’re serving people who are who are survivors, you know you’ve really got to address their holistic needs. And kind of understanding their context. And so you can’t just kind of rescue someone out of a situation without addressing the fact that they do need a safe place to stay. They need food, they need transportation. They need a job. And so we see a lot of those barriers with the people we serve for a range of reasons.
Employment can be a real challenge. Whether it’s you know not having legitimate work experience. Or the right job skills or just understanding how to navigate employment. Some may have even been criminalized for some of the things that were done to them. And so having criminal records creates barriers. With that, we do different kind of job readiness programs and we try to, you know, help survivors find employment.
We also kind of coordinate with other partners in trying to find stable housing. We have food that’s available at our drop-in center and we also kind of deliver it out to clients’ homes to just kind of help stabilize and address the basic needs.
And then I think another thing we see a lot of is just trauma. You know, it’s it there. Just, you know, if you put yourself in their position, just having to kind of endure that experience, you know trafficking itself, but even sometimes people have trauma that predated it. And so they come in and we have counselors who are available. We do support groups. We do something called Ending the Game, and that’s a curriculum that was created by a survivor to help kind of break some of those bonds to their traffickers, to the life. And they just kind of help people process their experience and really kind of empower them to take steps forward and to deal with some of the things that have happened.
Erica: That’s definitely one of the things I’ve noticed about The Landing is how holistically you think about your clients and how you work with partners to ensure that they have all of the resources and wrap around services they need to be successful. So thank you for all of that.
So, I know when we talk to people about human trafficking and as they’re learning more, people want to get involved and do something. What are the top one or two things you would say to someone who wants to engage in this work to end human trafficking?
Cara: You know, I think what I would say, and I was in that position too and I think probably you as well. You know you hear about it. You’re like I want to do something and there’s just some really incredible organizations out in the Houston Community. You know, you can always get involved with The Landing or A 2nd Cup. But really, there are a lot of great organizations in this space. So I would say just starting to research the issue itself – it’s a complex one. I mean it’s when you know, as we’ve been talking, it’s not just the human trafficking. You start getting into all the intersectionality and all the root causes of it. So really taking the time to try to better understand the issue and then also understanding the organizations that are out there and trying to figure out, you know, how you can volunteer. Or maybe join a board or use your skills in a way that you can help the kind of the work that’s going on in the space. At The Landing we have just started doing awareness presentations virtually every other month. We have one coming up I think it’s this Friday at noon. And information is available on our website or you know, coming to A 2nd Cup event. Just any you know way like that to kind of learn more about the issue I think is a great first step.
Erica: Yeah, that’s awesome. So, speaking of getting involved, I know that your fifth-year birthday celebration on the rooftop is coming up on Saturday, April 10th. I know there’s going to be like tacos and desserts and fun, and I think that attendees might be able to tour the drop-in center. Is that right?
Cara: They will, yeah, so we’re excited.
Erica: Are people able to still register to attend?
Cara: They can yes, and so yeah, we’re going to have our 5th birthday celebration,. We’ll have just a rooftop socially distance kind of setup for people. And then you can also sign up for a tour. We’re kind of managing the size of the tours just for safety precautions. But yeah, you can. You can tour the expanded drop-in space. We also have our youth advocacy space on site as well. And just get to see kind of where you know where we’re located, the Bissonnet community. And then you know what you can see what our classrooms look like or case management offices and where we do the work. So we’re really excited to open up the community. And if you’re interested in joining us, you can find out more on our website at thelanding.org.
Erica: Well, I’m super excited to celebrate with you guys.
Thank you so much for your time today and thank you for the incredibly important work that you do to support individuals who have been trafficked and exploited. We firmly believe that you are such a valuable partner in this work and we’re so grateful for you guys.
Cara: We’re so grateful for you guys and all the work we do to raise awareness around this issue.
Learn more about The Landing.