A new federal grant for $600,000 is addressing housing needs for human trafficking victims working to get back on their feet.
Officials that work with human trafficking victims said human trafficking can happen anywhere, at any time and it's an issue they've been tackling for years. They're hoping a new grant will help them provide support to victims.
“You hear people talk about human trafficking being mostly in our big urban areas and you'll always hear people say 1-44, 1-35 and 1-40, but the thing is every state says that about their highway intersections,” Garder said.
Lauren Garder with Zero Suicide and Trauma Care said there are so many different types of human trafficking and every victim will not necessarily have the same experience. In many cases victims are trafficked for sex and a big issue she's noticed in rural communities is for labor.
“You can see it in housing and in-home servitude where people may be purchased in order to provide services within someone's home, but mostly it’s related to agriculture,” Garder said.
Several organizations are working to bring a stop to this. The Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services recently received a grant to help combat this issue. Garder said this grant will just heighten their efforts to help victims transition out of that environment.
“It will primarily offer housing to victims of trafficking in rural areas. We have service providers that are in the state that are in our two urban areas, but there's just a dearth of housing options for clients elsewhere. Of course, we have services all across the state, but services are a big barrier for access if you don't have housing,” Garder said.
The grant is initiating the state's Rise Above Project which will partner with a local nonprofit. The grant will also address physical, social, and emotional needs.
This is a three-year grant. $200,000 will be towards the project each year.