The first housing assistance program for victims of human trafficking has launched in Marion County.
The Damien Center received a $600,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice for the program.
President and CEO Alan Witchey said human trafficking is a much bigger program than people may realize.
“People who are victims of human trafficking are often times very incentivized to be quiet because they are afraid for their life,” Witchey said. "They are afraid they are going to be pulled back into the scenario and trying to escape trafficking situations is so very hard because often times the people who are in that situation don’t have support services around them.”
According to the Indiana Attorney General and the Indiana Coalition to End Sexual Assault and Human Trafficking, 157 Indiana human trafficking cases were reported to National Human Trafficking Hotline in 2019. Forty of those cases involved minors.
The Damien Center’s new program focuses on LGBTQ+ individuals, women and school-aged children in poverty, transgender women of color, and people who are incarcerated for crimes relating to sex work exploitation and are engaged in the re-entry process.
Housing will be provided for at least 18 months to 10 victims of human trafficking during a 36-month program period.
Damien Center has hired a human trafficking housing case manager, who will identify barriers to health, safety, emotional wellness, and housing stability using screening tools created to ensure information is collected without the impact of re-traumatization.