Portland takes steps to fight local human trafficking

Portland Mayor Sam Adams Press Release,

This afternoon, I was joined by County Commissioner Diane McKeel, City Commissioner Dan Saltzman, and leaders in the faith and advocacy communities, to announce several advancements in the fight against juvenile human trafficking in the Portland area:

* Portland Police Bureau has doubled the size of its human trafficking detail;
* City Council next week will vote on an emergency resolution to fund dedicated shelter beds to provide a safe haven for juvenile victims of human trafficking in Portland;
* This resolution will also include funding for two additional Sexual Abuse Resource Center (SARC) victim advocates;
* City and Multnomah County officials are engaged in a partnership with the faith community to provide substantial funding for additional shelter beds and long-term treatment;
* And, the City of Portland has designated additional legislation to combat juvenile human trafficking as one of its state legislative priorities.

Currently, no dedicated shelter beds are available for juvenile human trafficking victims in the Portland metro area. These shelter beds would provide a safe place for those juvenile victims of human trafficking, a key part of the continuum of services needed to break the cycle.

Human trafficking, and especially juvenile human trafficking, goes against everything this city believes in and stands for, and we must do much more to combat the causes and symptoms of this problem. Working together with the County, taking immediate steps, and meaningfully supporting inspirational organizations like SARC and OATH [Oregonians Against Human Trafficking], we can and will significantly cut down on the plight of juvenile human trafficking.

The emergency resolution, which will come before City Council next week, would provide $285,000 in funding from the City’s contingency fund immediately to provide financial assistance to Janus Youth Programs and the Sexual Assault Resource Center (SARC) to fund shelter beds and treatment for juvenile human trafficking victims and two additional victim advocate positions for a one year period.

SARC provides extensive support to juvenile human trafficking victims through a 24-hour crisis line, hospital visits, case management, prevention education and outreach, offering support groups, and providing free mental health services.

Right now, SARC has only two advocates, who work untiringly around the clock to meet the needs of juvenile human trafficking victims within the City of Portland.

“These shelter beds are the product of the relentless work of our community and government partners to say to these girls: there is hope for you here; we are here to support you,” said Commissioner Saltzman.

Human trafficking is a crime that destroys lives and fuels other crime. Juvenile human trafficking victims are exploited, coerced, physically and sexually assaulted by their pimps to perform numerous sexual acts. National statistics indicate one of three missing teens who ends up on the streets will be lured or forced into prostitution within 48 hours.

The Portland Police Bureau reports an average of five cases of human trafficking each week and at least two of these victims are juveniles. Within the past two months, PPB has doubled the size of the human trafficking detail to better handle the significant number of human trafficking cases that must be investigated.

The City of Portland is also poised to receive support from its federal delegation. U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden has introduced legislation in Congress that would provide additional assistance in the fight against human trafficking, however the problem persists until this legislation is enacted into law.

Through a $500,000 federal grant, Multnomah County has established a multi-agency task force, the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children Steering Committee (CSEC), so community partners can collaborate and create a coordinated community response to the juvenile human trafficking and create an action plan.

“I am heartened by the dedication of so many people to this issue and these children,” said County Comm. McKeel. “It has been simply incredible to watch stakeholders, community groups, elected leaders, nonprofits and victim advocates coalesce around one goal – providing a better life for our children that have been tossed aside and exploited for far too long.”

Another important addition to the coordinated response to juvenile human trafficking is the involvement of Portland area churches of Season of Service. The churches committed to make juvenile human trafficking the focus of their fundraising and donations this holiday season.

Pastors Kevin Palau and Ken Weigel have been instrumental in coordinating private citizen involvement and financial contributions to this effort.

To learn more, visit www.oregonOATH.org and www.SARCoregon.org.

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