The mission of My Life My Choice is to end exploitation through survivor-led programs that both educate and empower marginalized young people to find their voice and shift systems and policies that allow exploitation to occur. They believe that everyone has a fundamental human right to live their lives free from exploitation—without fear that others will prey on their vulnerabilities. Their comprehensive, field-tested programming empowers exploited young people to take ownership of their lives, builds a strong network of responsive providers in their communities, and serves as a model for communities across the country. Their goal is to change not only lives but the structural inequities that give rise to Commercial Sexual Exploitation (CSE).
They aim to provide access to rental assistance for the young adults they serve, ages 18-25. Their goal is to stabilize these young adults as they transition to economic self-sufficiency, as they know that many services and systems geared towards minors drop off when youth turn 18, leaving them particularly vulnerable to homelessness and re-traumatization.
Becoming a GrantTank recipient enables My Life My Choice to empower members of vulnerable populations through education about the commercial sex industry and its predators, mobilize male allies to shift the cultural narrative and hold those who harm accountable, and support survivors in rebuilding their lives.
Without the proof of income that comes with a steady job, coupled with a lack of prior knowledge on the best ways to find affordable housing, the young adults My Life My Choice serves face extreme difficulties stabilizing themselves enough to find a path to economic self-sufficiency and a role in the legal economy. Because of these barriers to finding physical and economic safety and stability, these already marginalized and traumatized young people are vulnerable to higher rates of re-incarceration, re-exploitation, and community-based violence, among other dangers that accompany going without shelter.
They proposed 12 months of rental assistance for young adults, ages 18+, with an average of $1,000 per month allocated to each program participant to cover costs associated with the rental process: rent, utilities, furniture, transportation to housing appointments, etc. They estimate that during this grant period, 20 youths will be provided comprehensive housing support. In addition, they plan to devote $35,000 in flex funds for housing support for approximately 15-20 youths who have less acute housing needs.
Over the course of the 12-month period in which youth are receiving assistance, youth will also receive intensive support from Case Managers to secure and maintain employment, all overseen by their newly funded Economic Empowerment and Workforce Development Coordinator. They will also be developing a financial literacy course, based on an existing financial literacy program they created but adapted specifically to young adults, to help them build skills to effectively budget their money in a way that allows them to be self-sufficient. As the young adults receiving assistance begin to obtain employment and build financial literacy skills, they will begin requiring them to contribute a portion of their income to pay for their rent, an amount that they will determine proportionately based on their income and increase gradually as they begin to stabilize and gain confidence. Their goal is to ultimately work towards transitioning all of the young adults receiving assistance to be financially self-sufficient.
The Jensen Project is proud to partner with and support My Life My Choice because of their unique commitment to housing and stabilizing young adult survivors, their survivor-led mentorship program, and their leadership in the Equality Model efforts around the country.
Because a lot of these people entered The Life between 11 and 14, they know nothing else. They have nowhere to go. We know so many 16- and 17-year-olds age out of foster care, and they age out of all statewide resources. 18-year-olds are so vulnerable because, mentally and emotionally, they are still so much younger than they are legally, which disqualifies them from so many exit resources.
My Life My Choice works with young people 18 to 25, to help solve this problem.
Transitional housing is unique for young adults who are trying to complete their GED, think about a future career, and think about current employment.
My Life My Choice doesn’t discriminate against different types of families. Whether a survivor has pets, children, or anybody else who is exiting The Life with them, My Life My Choice will help survivors find safe housing. They don’t just serve biological women—they also serve transgender women and people who identify as nonbinary. They are supportive and welcoming of all minorities; they are the type of organization that celebrates Pride and recognizes all humans as humans.
My Life My Choice also operates a mentorship program. Every young adult that is coming in is paired with an older survivor mentor. They are matching people to somebody that ideally they can immediately trust—someone who looks like them, someone who could relate to them, and again, is a survivor themselves.
Audrey and Lisa, co-founders, illustrate the relationship that survivors and allies should have in this fight against sexual violence. The pair lead this organization with strength and grace and have created such a welcoming environment for all who enter.
My Life My Choice is a strong proponent and advocate of the Equality Model, which decriminalizes the sex trade for prostituted people and provides them with exit services, while still holding accountable the buyers, sellers, and brothel owners.
A yearly grant program, funding up to $2 Million to advance economic empowerment and housing opportunities for agencies who serve adult female survivors of human trafficking.