BY LORENA PINTO
As a native of Peru, I never imagined living in sub-zero temperatures, let alone walking snowy streets to provide outreach to sex trafficking survivors. But every week, staff from The Family Partnership’s PRIDE program and the Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center (MIWRC) walk in the Phillips and Powderhorn neighborhoods to meet sex trafficking survivors where they are.
You may see us with purple clothing or “On the Streets” outreach bags. Our goal is to connect with people and offer services and support. We lend a hand with immediate needs, such as offering gloves and hygiene products, or helping to find shelter. Some survivors need access to taking a Rule 25 chemical assessment, which is the gateway to accessing alcohol/drug treatment.
When victims of sexual exploitation are ready, the PRIDE program (which stands for Promoting Recovery, Independence, Dignity and Equality) offers comprehensive services in a non-judgmental environment. We know we need to be persistent (we are in our 41st year) because this issue is persistent. Last year, our program increased outreach and service delivery to survivors of sex trafficking by 42% over 2017.
What are barriers to leaving sexual exploitation?
1) Poverty. In 2018, 98% of the people PRIDE served were living in poverty. Of those, 56% were living in extreme poverty ($25,750 for a family of four) and 42% were living in poverty ($51,500 for a family of four) as defined by 2019 Federal Guidelines.
2) Housing and employment. If survivors have criminal records, that can be a big barrier to employment and housing. We help survivors get their criminal records sealed or expunged. PRIDE also offers an evidence-based coaching program, Mobility Mentoring, as a way to help participants develop skills to escape intergenerational poverty.
3) Populations facing disparities. Populations served by the “On the Streets” outreach program face multiple disparities, including higher rates of incarceration, addiction and homelessness than the general population. Of those reached, 68% were American Indian, and 22% African American. For PRIDE overall, 36% of people served were African American, 26% Caucasian, 16% American Indian and 15% were multiracial.
What we are doing to help
1) Serving all ages, from 10 to 56 years old. PRIDE is one of the few programs that provides services across the lifespan, because it may take years for someone to fully leave. In 2018, 61% of survivors we served were from age 25 to age 65. That is an important service distinction, since the Minnesota Safe Harbor legislation covers services for those age 24 and younger (with no criminal charges for those 18 and under), leaving a significant gap for those age 25 and older.
2) Increasing public awareness. Our staff increased educational trainings on recognizing signs of sex trafficking and what to do if someone is sexually exploited by 522% in 2018 (859 people reached vs. 138 in 2017).
3) Engaging with businesses and residents. We regularly engage with residents and business owners about our activities through the Love East Lake and Phillips/Powderhorn neighborhood associations. We have an intern who brings a lived experience voice to these meetings. Many business owners have our materials on hand, or call us when we may be needed to help someone. For example, we are working with a laundromat owner to establish a new “Clean Clothes for All” project.
4) Continuing the Street Outreach program. Warmer weather means more street activity. Our program started in late 2017, and will continue this year thanks to funding from the City of Minneapolis Health Department. In 2018, the PRIDE and MIWRC teams provided outreach to 317 individuals. Of those, 91% of survivors were engaged on the streets of the Phillips and Powderhorn neighborhoods of Minneapolis and 9% on Minneapolis’ Northside.
I chose to move to Minnesota because of our state’s progressive work to end sexual exploitation—but there is much more to be done. I believe in the power of a community to make changes to the underlying issues that families with low incomes face, from access to affordable housing, to resources for education and economic mobility.
It’s my belief that we are creating change that gets me out of bed in the morning, and motivates me to walk the streets and listen to more survivor stories.
How to connect with us: I am the director of the PRIDE program and can be reached at Lpinto@thefamilypartnership.org. Our 24-hour Crisis Line is 612-728-2062 or 888-774-3399. You can view our full PRIDE report for 2018 at www.thefamilypartnership.org/media.