STOP-IT Programmatic Responses to COVID-19

Apr 8, 2020 | by Jenn + Sam

We have had to make some necessary adjustments to the STOP-IT Program; in a very fluid time, this is where we currently stand.

The recent unprecedented changes that have surged through our society due to COVID-19 have disrupted many, if not all, of the safe spaces many people rely on. All of us feel the challenges associated with social distancing. Its compelling demand to adjust each and every aspect of our daily rhythm leaves most feeling a lack of community, options, and uncertainty. However, for some individuals it goes beyond not being able to see friends, attend spiritual gatherings, get out and about to shop or see a movie, or even continue working; for some it has become a complete loss of safe space, of the space that is free of violence with room for choices and voicing their needs and desires.

Those with lived experiences of exploitation and trafficking may not consider sheltering-in-place as a remotely safe option, even knowing the risks of the harmful coronavirus. In addition to the general fear of becoming sick, additional stressors and safety concerns are only aggravating their situations: proximity to abusers; exasperated mental health symptoms from isolation and stress; greater necessity to find resources to meet basic needs; significantly limited access to law enforcement and emergency room options; and increased trauma responses without access to friends, case workers, and therapists in a normative way.

STOP-IT is dedicated in shifting our programs to continue to provide resources and support to survivors in Northern Illinois and abide by the shelter-in-place guidelines. Take a look at how the 24-hour hotline, community case management, and drop-in center are currently functioning.

24-Hour Hotline (877-606-3158)

STOP-IT’s 24-hour hotline is still available for survivors of human trafficking during COVID-19. Hotline workers are doing their best to stay up-to-date on the latest changes in emergency housing, food pantries and resources, and how to address crises during this very difficult time. Hotline workers can assist folks in finding connections to mental health resources, navigating emergency services, and taking referrals for program follow-up. We encourage folks who have had contact with our program to call and check in. During this very unknown time, we want to extend our hand to make sure clients, participants, and those in need know we are here, we want to help, and they are not alone. The STOP-IT Program is still taking client referrals for services.  

Community Case Management

In a time with such uncertainty and words like “isolation” and “quarantine” constantly being thrown around in the world, it can be an even more daunting time for survivors of human trafficking. Being asked to stay inside and limit all contact with other people can resemble elements of an exploitative experience, leaving survivors less in control and less connected to safe resources. STOP-IT’s community case management team acknowledges and recognizes that this is a difficult time with many unknowns, but is working to create some level of consistency and availability to support survivors.

In following with the protocols set for Illinois, case management has transitioned the majority of its work to virtual meetings. This is far from ideal because we know in-person meetings create a physical space for survivors to receive support and work on goals, as well as a time to create and invest in healthy relationships. Case managers are available by phone and email to clients, setting up weekly or bi-weekly meetings to check-in with participants, provide emotional support, and connect clients to resources, as well as providing response to crises as needed. The present limitations are frustrating and fearsome, but case managers are working to provide support and continued guidance in reaching goals as best they can in these circumstances. For the indefinite future, case management meetings will remain virtual, but case managers will continue to work remotely and find unique ways to help clients reach their goals and meet their needs.

The STOP-IT Drop In Center

Our STOP-IT drop in center strives to be a trauma-informed space where individuals can come and go as they please, get their basic needs met, obtain referrals, and have ample choice in how they spend their time in the space. If you are interested in learning more about the space, consider reading our previous post here which more fully shares our center’s values and aim in creating a safe space. Unsurprisingly, due to the gravity of the current health concerns, we, too, have made significant preventative changes to our drop-in programming. Given the current dangers associated with COVID-19, our drop-in space is closed at this time to encourage the physical health of all who access our services. This decision did not come lightly, especially as we recognize the heightened safety concerns that closing of safe spaces can mean for participants.

In lieu of our standard drop-in services, we are continuing to offer access to weekly case management appointments over the phone and regular check-ins and emotional support for participants who are interested. Our staff are still working and are remotely available to point folks toward resources and referrals. Now more than ever, the internet can be a very powerful and helpful tool! We know that these provisions are not sufficient to meet the exponentially expanding needs and certainly does not replace the safe space that folks have temporarily lost, but we hope that the relationships and resources we are able to offer can create some sense of security during this time of instability.

Other Resources/Activities/Ideas To Look Into:

In thinking how we can continue to cultivate protection for our minds, bodies, and spirits for our STOP-IT team, participants, employees and volunteers, we’ve come up with some important steps we can all consider taking:

  • Moving our bodies and getting fresh air by talking a walk. As Dr. Brene Brown solidifies in her podcast, Unlocking Us, “Move your body. It’s where we store our anxiety, our grief, hard things” (2020). Taking a walk can have benefits to our overall mental health, but also act as a means to literally be away from home when needed and safe to do so.
  • While keeping your distance (at least 6ft as recommended by the CDC) and taking proper protective precautions, meet a safe person at the grocery store and do your essential shopping at the same time. This could be a creative way to be in the presence of a cherished person that creates a sense of emotional safety while also respecting the current guidelines for social distancing. Sometimes an affirming smile, a wave, and hearing someone’s voice can create a safe space right where you are.
  • Press into remote services when it is safe to do so by utilizing a phone call, video chat, or tele-therapy. If already connected with counseling, check with your current counselor/therapist to see if they have options for counseling over-the-phone! If you are not already connected to a counselor, here are some resources that may be of assistance:
    • Bright Star Community Outreach trauma counseling helpline – 833-TURN123, open 9am-6pm Monday through Friday.
    • Call 312-747-1020 to reach the Chicago Department of Public Health Mental Health Centers for tele-therapy resource services.
    • Connect with a crisis counselor by utilizing the 24/7 Crisis Text Line by texting “HELLO” to 741741
  • Explore mindfulness exercises that guide us to create a safe space within our own imagination. Check out an example here! Our mind has amazing capacity to tend to our body and soul when we need it most.

We recognize that for many, it is not adequate to implement any of the suggestions above. They are not enough. Taking a walk simply does not mitigate the very real violence many are facing at home. We encourage people to safety plan, familiarize yourself with, and use the emergency resources that exist when safety is not an option in our own place of residence and access to typical spaces are cut off.

Contact 911 if in an emergency situation or immediate danger.

Domestic Violence hotline (1-877-863-6338) – 24/7 hotline for getting connected to Domestic violence programs, housing, crisis support and safety assistance, and resources for counseling, legal advocacy, children’s services, and more.

Dial 311 to learn about options for emergency shelter, emergency food assistance and other Chicago resources and assistance.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) – 24/7 free and confidential support line for those in distress or crisis.

RAINN – Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (1-800-656-4673) – 24/7 hotline for sexual abuse.

National Dating Abuse Helpline (1-866-331-9474) – 24/7 hotline

NAMI Chicago Helpline (833-626-4244) – connect to a mental health counselor Monday-Friday 9 am – 8 pm, Saturday and Sunday 9 am – 5 pm, closed on holidays.

The Salvation Army Emotional & Spiritual Support Hotline (1-877-740-8829)  – available 8 am – 4 pm for someone to talk to, spiritual guidance, and prayer support.

National Human Trafficking Hotline (1-888-373-7888/ text “Help” to 233733) – 24/7 hotline to reach an Anti-Trafficking Hotline Advocate for support, safety tips, and resources.

STOP-IT Hotline (877-606-3159) – 24/7 hotline for information on STOP-IT services, assistance finding local resources, and technical assistance for services providers

Coronavirus Chicago Resources Guide – For additional information on financial assistance, housing options, and food resources found here.  



Brown, B (2020, March, 27). Brene on comparative suffering, the 50/50 myth, and settling the ball [Audio podcast]. Retrieved from

City of Chicago (2020). Resources. Retrieved from

Harvey, J (2019). Defining STOP-IT’s drop-in. Retrieved from

NAMI Chicago (n.d.) Our helpline is here for you. Retrieved from

Statler, O (n.d.) Safe place meditation [Video]. InsightTimer.  Retrieved from

The Salvation Army (2020, March, 27). Salvation Army opens emotional and spiritual hotline for those struggling during COVID-19. Retrieved from

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