Heather Heiman, MVLS Human Trafficking Prevention Project Manager, reflects on MVLS’ human trafficking prevention work in 2019 and shares her hopes for 2020:
As January is Human Trafficking Awareness month, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on 2019, which was a year of revitalization and expansion for the Human Trafficking Prevention Project (HTTP) at MVLS. Throughout the year, MVLS worked diligently with our program partner University of Baltimore School of Law to increase community awareness of the unmet legal needs that put trafficking survivors and other vulnerable groups at further risk, and train and inspire pro bono attorneys to represent survivors in these cases.
In 2019, MVLS launched a new series of quarterly webinars highlighting the intersectionality between human trafficking and various areas of civil law that can impact survivors’ ability to safely and successfully move forward with their lives. In addition to HTPP staff, these webinars featured attorneys from partner agencies as guest presenters, enabling MVLS to further develop relationships within the legal community on this critical issue and expand the network of resources available to HTPP clients.
MVLS also focused on growing partnerships with local community organizations throughout Maryland to further expand the reach of the HTPP. Over the last year, MVLS provided on-site legal intake and counseling through eight different shelters, community outreach centers, and service providers, allowing potential clients who may have never reached out for legal help to first consult with an attorney at a familiar place they know and trust.
During these visits, I was able to connect with so many new clients – both trafficking survivors and others who are grappling with past trauma, housing instability, and other factors that put them at risk of future exploitation. By meeting them in person, giving them the opportunity to review their criminal records, discussing their legal needs, and connecting them with volunteer attorneys from MVLS, the HTPP provided access to critical legal services that will help them on their path to a safer and more stable future.
In this work, however, our most important partners are volunteer attorneys like you. MVLS volunteer attorneys have stepped up to provide legal representation in expungement, vacatur, custody, divorce, consumer debt, name and gender marker change, housing, and other legal issues for HTPP clients, but we always need more attorneys to help. We hope you will consider joining the HTPP volunteer panel and assist a client in need in 2020, to make the future a little brighter for trafficking survivors and other vulnerable clients in Maryland.
Human Trafficking Prevention Project Manager
For more information on the HTPP or to sign up for the HTPP volunteer panel, contact Heather Heiman at 443-451-4075.