Human Trafficking calls for help on the rise; local non-profits expand their efforts to help victims

Posted at 12:18 AM, Jan 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-06 02:20:06-05

IDAHO — The local non-profits, Idaho Anti-Trafficking Coalition and Pathways Community Crisis Center of Southwest Idaho have partnered together to expand their efforts to help victims of human trafficking, sexual assault, and trauma.

“We’re finally addressing the needs of a population that hasn’t been identified or properly supported in Idaho before,” said Jennifer Zielinski, IATC Executive Director.

The coalition has seen an increase in calls for help to their crisis hotline.

In the last quarter (Oct.-Dec.), they received 354 crisis hotline calls, with 176 of those coming through in Dec, according to IATC.

In 2020, the non-profit also helped 360 victims and survivors of human trafficking with crisis intervention and safety planning, compared to 62 individuals in 2019 (July-Dec.), according to the IATC.

“We were responding to food needs, shelter needs, relocation services like housing assistance, transportation, food, and those basic necessities,” said Zielinski.

To expand their efforts against trafficking and abuse, the Coalition has partnered with Pathways Community Crisis Center of Southwest Idaho, a non-profit helping individuals with mental health and drug addiction who had a 21 percent increase in admission to their facility from the start and end of 2020.

“We have a lot of people coming in with trauma or have experienced trauma and a lot of times that can overlap as a result of trafficking experiences and other things like that," said Bert Schweickart, PCCCSI Program Manager. "The combination of both of our agencies together we are going to have a front-row seat on people coming through so we will be able to identify them and get them the help they need.”

“These partnerships have been extremely beneficial, but critical to ensuring safety and ensuring placement housing, access to crisis care, and access to trauma services,” said Zielinski.

As part of the partnership, IATC placed a case manager at Pathways facility to increase education and help identify victims.

“It will help raise our level of education and things that we are looking for as far as trafficking kinds of behaviors and questions to ask," said Schweickart. "We are going to work in partnership that way and learn about some of the precursor behaviors that we see that may be a result because of trafficking.”

A mutual agreement between organizations to help victims of human trafficking and abuse that also might be experiencing addiction, homelessness, and mental health problems.

“Our main concern is helping the clients that are involved in it and don’t want to be," said Schweickart. "We are the perfect place to do that, especially in cooperation with them because they have all the expertise in that area we have all of the community resources at their fingertips."

Pathways is also helping IATC individuals with safe housing.

"We provide a safe and secure place to keep them isolated and safe and feeling less trauma than they are going through,” said Schweikart.

“Covid has thrown a wrench into everybody's program. The way that we provide services, the way that we structure, so the partnerships have been the foundation," said Zielinski. "Without the partnerships, we wouldn’t be able to ensure housing. We wouldn’t be able to ensure crisis care. We wouldn’t be able to have safe places to ensure that an individual's needs were going to be met.”

They plan to expand the partnerships to the rest of the crisis centers across the state.

“It's breaching all the distances between all the agencies to reach people and not lose them in the transition from here to there or there to here because people do get lost in the wash, especially the homeless,” said Schweikart.

If you or someone you know are experiencing a behavioral health crisis, call Pathways Crisis Center at 208-489-8311.

For Idaho Anti-Trafficking Coalition's Crisis Hotline, call or text 208-630-6601.