Shifting the Paradigm by Judge Paul Herbert

by Wendy Grace Evans
May 24, 2012

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Judge Paul Herbert of Columbus, Ohio leads the Changing Actions to Change Habits (CATCH) program, which is a two-year program for women who have been involved in sex work or human trafficking. Instead of sending them to prison, the program allows the women to spend two years on probation and to enter an intensive rehabilitation program for substance use and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Judge Herbert shares some reflections on the CATCH program.

The Changing Actions to Change Habits (CATCH) program is two years in length, and while many women do not make it the whole way through, I can track them through the criminal databases. Data shows that of the 80 women who have been accepted into the program, 78 percent have not committed a new crime. The remaining 22 percent are women who relapsed and have committed crimes and are back in the system.

The other venture we are pursuing is an attempt to differentiate between prostitution and human trafficking. The more I see women come through my courtroom, the more I am convinced that many are human trafficking victims.

I have spoken to different people in search of a human trafficking assessment tool. I found one in Washington, D.C. with the Polaris Project, which is the leading national human trafficking research organization. It defines human trafficking as follows: whether by force, fraud, or coercion, a person submits to a commercial sex act if they are over the age of 18. If they are under the age of 18, the selling party must have sold them for sex in order for sex to fall under the guidelines of human trafficking.

Based on this definition, we assessed 20 women who are currently in the program, and 93 percent fell within the guidelines of being human trafficking victims.

This tool helps enormously because it gives me hard data, which can help me shift the culture and mindset of how people in Ohio and the country view prostitution. In Columbus alone, 1,500 women a year are arrested for prostitution. Based on the results of the initial Polaris assessment, this would mean that approximately 1,396 are actually trafficking cases. I cannot sit back and watch this happen. The recovery centers are full, and women are now waiting in jail cells.

I also had another epiphany, which is a belief that Ohio State University should become the first university to open a center on human trafficking. The center would provide research, education, publishing, treatment, and outreach. Some of the most prominent issues that these women face include Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from trauma, Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI), substance use, mental illness, homelessness, and physical health problems (including vision and dental problems).

I am looking for an approach that keeps the women at the center of our attention as a community so they can heal, and so society understands they have been sold into this lifestyle of degradation—and it should be said that it is hardly a lifestyle. It is more of a death sentence.

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Category: HRC Insight

Self-Care: “I Have to Start Somewhere”

by David Sisneros
April 03, 2012

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David Sisneros is the Program Director at the Metropolitan Homelessness Project men’s shelter, The Albuquerque Opportunity Center (AOC). He also fills several other roles at the organization. David describes his realization that he needs to take better care of himself and his journey towards self-care in a conversation with Wendy Grace Evans after her visit to the shelter.

There can be a fine line between serving others and taking care of myself. I provide all personnel supervision, job coaching, and on-site training at AOC. I directly manage all of our residents in the veterans program, and I am responsible for ensuring the safety of all residents. For us, this typically totals 75 men per night.

I focus my time on getting to know both staff and veterans. Getting to know people on an emotional level, especially people who are struggling, and who come and go, is not an easy task.

I value working diligently with the men in our program. Sometimes, they are victims of circumstance. Sometimes they die. Sometimes they have a mental health or substance use relapse. I have been in this field for a long time, and it is difficult to feel these tragedies. I can’t let them rest heavy in my heart.

I have also seen my own family struggle with both mental illness and substance use, and I have seen how we have overcome them. I have always known that I wanted to serve, and I gain a great deal from serving others.

Six months ago, I realized that this was all too much. It was clear that I was overwhelmed and was working myself to death. Working 50-hour weeks at 110 percent just to get the basics done is unhealthy.

When I first started working those hours, I felt proud that I could do that much, and do it well. But people started asking me, ‘How do you take time for yourself?’

That is when I realized that I wasn’t taking time for myself.

Initially, my wife was supportive of my pace, but then I started hearing, ‘We want to see more of you.’ We started bickering more about when I would be home. I felt resentful that she was putting pressure on me when I was out doing something for the community.

But then I remembered—she is my wife. She is my family, and she and my daughter deserve more attention.

Since realizing my need for self-care, I have started making some changes. I go hiking and camping with my family. And while I don’t yet feel I am in a place where I can take an hour for myself to go running, I am finding joy in being present at home with my wife and daughter.

I have also been a musician for a long time, and it was hurting my heart that I didn’t have time to play music anymore. So I joined the West Side Drum Circle, and now I play with some guys and bang the heck out of African drums.

I would love to take yoga. Physical exercise is a part of my life that is out of balance. When I think about self-care, I think of people spending time by themselves and taking care of themselves. I guess I am doing that now, and that’s a start. I have to start somewhere.

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Self Care Tips

by Kaela Gray
February 15, 2011

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Feeling stressed? One of the most valuable things you can do is to practice a little self-care, every day. Here are some self-care tips to help you remember to breathe.



  1. Take one thing at a time.
  2. Avoid over-scheduling.
  3. Treat your body well.
    • Eat healthy food.
    • Exercise.
    • Get enough sleep as often as you can.
    • Take time off when you are sick.
  4. Remember to ask for help.
  5. Cook and enjoy a meal with a friend or loved one.
  6. If you have only 5 minutes, you could:
    • Chat with a co-worker
    • Step outside for fresh air
    • Enjoy a snack or make a cup of coffee or tea
  7. If you have only 10 minutes, you could:
    • Write in a journal
    • Call a friend
    • Meditate
    • Tidy your work area
    • Assess your self care routine
    • Draw a picture

Most importantly, whether you use some of these tips or create a few of your own, remember that sometimes in only takes a little bit of time to nourish your mind and body – and the benefits can go a long way.

Check out What About You? A Workbook for Those Who Work with Others for more self care tips.

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Category: HRC Insight

Stress and Burnout: A Hidden Occupational Hazard

by Kristen Paquette
January 31, 2011

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We all throw around terms like “stress” and “burnout” as though they should be regular parts of everyday life. We might say, “Oh man, am I stressed out!” Or, “Did you see Tom during today’s staff meeting? He totally snapped! He is really burnt out.”

Sure, we all have stress at work. In fact, some stress is healthy for us. But we need to be careful not to ignore the dangers of stress and burnout. Recently, I had the opportunity to research these issues. What I found honestly surprised me.

Chronic stress and burnout can lead to devastating health and mental health conditions. These can include heart disease, musculoskeletal disorders, depression, anxiety, and emotional exhaustion.

In the homelessness field, service providers face a unique risk factor for burnout known as vicarious trauma or compassion fatigue. This occurs as a result of regular exposure to clients who are dealing with trauma. Among people who are homeless, their life stories often consist of violence, loss, despair, and family separations. As the caregivers, providers absorb these trauma stories. As a result, providers may begin to exhibit signs of post-traumatic stress disorder. Or they may feel powerless, angry, and have a sense that their expectations for helping others have gone away. Vicarious trauma is a serious concern that can impact how providers view themselves, others, and the world around them. It can also severely impact providers’ quality of life.

What is most striking about this information is that issues such as burnout and vicarious trauma are preventable. With proper training and supports, individuals can minimize the dangers associated with these occupational hazards.

One way to do this is to adopt self-care practices. Both individuals and organizations play a role in self-care. In fact, it is essential that self-care is supported by both the individual and the organization.

Individuals can create self-care plans to help create a healthy work-life balance. Activities might include deep breathing or meditation, exercise, proper nutrition, spiritual activities, social activities, or even just making the time to take a lunch break. Organizations can create healthier cultures by talking about the importance of self-care, allowing time for staff to take breaks and seek out peer support, encouraging staff to take vacation time, and providing physical and mental health benefits.

For some HRC community members, this is not news. Perhaps for anyone who works, the dangers of job stress and burnout are not news. However, what may be news to you is just how dangerous stress and burnout can be when left unaddressed. For homeless service providers, the challenges are even greater as we walk alongside people who are struggling with trauma.

Even if you start small, start today. Strike up a conversation about self-care in your office. Take a walk at lunchtime. Breathe.

Please don’t forget to take care of yourself as you take care of others. Visit the HRC’s Self Care Topic Page to learn more about how to practice individual and organizational self care.

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Category: HRC Insight