Convergence Resource Center

Gatherings boost activism, education and collaboration for Convergence Resource Center

When you’re working with a small, strategically-minded staff to combat one of the city’s least visible but fastest growing issues – human trafficking – everything you do is deliberate.

This describes the Convergence Resource Center, a nonprofit that provides specialized support services to women who are survivors of human trafficking and people rebuilding their lives after trauma. Of particular need in the fall of 2017 was increased access to trauma-sensitive medical care and job training, and job opportunities for these clients. Center CEO and co-founder Debbie Lassiter had one additional, immediate goal: To forge strong connections in the center’s new northside neighborhood.

As an On the Table MKE superhost, Lassiter structured the events of Oct. 17, 2017 around those three needs. “Not necessarily to solve a problem,” she explains, “but to see what collaborations we could make to provide more services.”

Breakfast brought together medical professionals who learned why many center clients prefer to attend medical appointments with an advocate by their side.

“For doctors and medical staff, privacy is always an issue,” Lassiter explained. “Our staff are trained to work with survivors who don’t always feel they have a voice or someone to explain things to them in appointments. We discussed how we can provide that service in a way that isn’t disruptive to the medical team.”

Its lunch event welcomed staff from job placement agencies.

“There’s a job training curriculum for people dealing with alcohol and other drug addictions and people being released from prison” Lassiter said. “There’s no curriculum for human trafficking survivors.” Development of the curriculum with a pilot group is awaiting funding.

Dinner was a grassroots gathering that brought new faces into the center’s home on 76th Street.

“A lot of people didn’t realize that human trafficking is happening on this side of town,” Lassiter said, “or that there are 500 homeless youth in the street each night.”

Through the dinner and subsequent planning sessions, the center’s #lifeline2you event was planned for July 28, 2018. Goodwill Industries, New Testament Church and an army of youth volunteers fanned out across the city, planting inspirational messages and emergency-contact information in places where runaways might find them. Runaways are one of the prime targets of human traffickers.

On the Table MKE was a catalyst for us to have discussions we needed to have,” Lassiter says. “One thing people should be aware of if they want to participate in 2018 is that while you may start with a large group and big idea, it may morph and change into something else. Your goals can still be accomplished.”