ABOUT LIVING IN FREEDOM TOGETHER (LIFT)
Living In Freedom Together (LIFT) is a survivor-led organization comprised of those who have overcome commercial sexual exploitation (CSE), and professionals sensitive to the needs of this vulnerable and marginalized population.
letter from the ceo
2020 A Year in Review
Nicole Bell, Founder & CEO
February 9, 2021
2020 was a challenging year to say the least. But through adversity LIFT was still able to accomplish big things in our mission to end prostitution. At the heart of all we do is accountability to our mission: to show up with unconditional positive regard and support for survivors of prostitution. When COVID-19 hit in early 2020, we had to make critical decisions in how we were going to remain true to our mission in unprecedented times. The reality is while the pandemic was raging across the world the demand to purchase access to the bodies of women and girls did not waiver. Neither did we.
In 2020 LIFT launched our youth outreach program after winning a competitive grant from the Executive Office of Health and Human Services. Our Transitional Youth Mentoring and Exiting (TYME) services provides support to youth involved in or at risk of being trafficked for sex. Services include peer mentorship, access to shelter, case management services, and stabilization resources.
Unable to operate out of our Drop-In Center facility due to COVID-19, we mobilized outreach and advocacy services. This meant completely rethinking how to deliver services efficiently and effectively out on the streets instead of in the safety, privacy, and anonymity provided to our participants by our brick-and-mortar operation. Prostituted women seeking services from our organization are at risk of violent retaliation from their traffickers and pimps. Balancing discretion with delivery of essential supports and services was an art perfected by our Outreach and Advocacy team.
Most significantly, we organized, opened, and operated an Emergency Shelter for Women in May providing a safe space for women experiencing homelessness to shelter-in-place under Governor Baker’s order. This shelter was originally slated to operate for 30 days and support 10 women. We ended up operating the shelter for 90 days and serving 36 women. Additionally, our shelter was not simply a cot and a meal. Through partnerships established by LIFT, we were able to offer onsite medical care, telehealth mental health services, access to stabilization resources and re-housing services, and intensive case management from a team of women experienced in providing support to women with histories of severe trauma co-occurring with a myriad of other vulnerabilities. The LIFT model of care delivered phenomenal results: 34 of the 36 women served were able to transition to permanent housing or treatment. 2 women were unable to remain at the shelter, but they continued to work with their case manager and receive support from LIFT, relationship that continues today.
It became immediately evident that operating a shelter for women in Worcester wasn’t something that only needed to be done on an emergency basis – this needed to be a permanent part of our programming. It is out of the chaos of COVID-19 that the HARBOR program was born. HARBOR incorporates our flagship Drop-In Center with a permanent, zero-barrier, maximum vulnerability shelter for women, accessible 24/7, no expectations applied.
While the pandemic caused other service providers to close their doors LIFT reassessed and remained on the frontlines for the women we serve. Closing our doors was never an option for our organization in 2020. Instead, we rose to the occasion and expanded programming to include services for youth and a 24/7 shelter and created 13 new positions for survivors in our community.
We are so proud of everything LIFT has dreamed of and turned into a reality, especially through the COVID-19 crisis. LIFT is here to hold space for survivors as they forge their own paths and step into positions of power. Believe us, we know the road ahead has its challenges. We encourage you to join our movement so that together, we will end the sex trade.
Nicole Bell, Founder & CEO