Table Magazine, Fall 2021

The PATH Forward

Helping survivors forge ahead
Buffalo is not immune to the tragedy of human trafficking. And she was motivated to do something about it.

For individuals who have lived through the deeply traumatic experience of human trafficking, feeling safe again likely seems impossible. But helping survivors feel safe is something Julie Palmer has dedicated herself t0. With support from Rich Products, she and the staff at the PATH Enrichment Center are providing the kinds of services that enrich the lives of survivors and restore hope.

Does human trafficking really happen in Buffalo? That’s what Palmer thought the first time she attended a talk on the matter. She’s since gone on to give her own talks on the realities of human trafficking, like in 2018 when she spoke at TedxBuffalo. Her goal now is simple: to open people’s eyes to the fact that, while Buffalo is not immune to the tragedy of human trafficking, something can be done about it. And she’s leading by example.

Buffalo is not immune to the tragedy of human trafficking. And she was motivated to do something about it.

In 2012, Palmer became executive director of PATH—People Against Trafficking Humans. In the nine years since, the operation has grown exponentially, becoming an incorporated not-for-profit organization. Palmer and her staff left behind the 500-square-foot space they once rented to move to their current 6,000-square-foot facility, where they provide drop-in support services to adults, youth, and children. Along the way, they’ve helped over 600 individuals since 2015 when the Enrichment Center opened.

A large portion of those impacted by human trafficking are children and youth. And because their needs differ from those of adult survivors, organizations like PATH seek to offer needed resources.

The Youth Room is completely separate from the adult space. Catering to the needs of 13 to 18-year-old survivors, it provides a safe environment where staff can address the difficulties and traumas these young survivors have experienced. 

Along with in-house efforts like the Youth Room, PATH is also working to develop relationships with schools to help these institutions better understand the impact trafficking has on youths. These efforts help raise awareness within the community. 

“The more people who are aware, who know how to look, where to look, the more they can identify it and stop it,” says Palmer.