Project FIGHT expands reach

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North Carolina program accepts grant to provide aid for trafficking victims.

By Lizzy Adams

The Salvation Army Project FIGHT (Freeing Individuals Gripped by Human Trafficking) received a $458,000 federal grant this year from the Office of Victims Crime (OVC) that will enable it to expand to Salisbury and New Bern, with Raleigh, N.C. serving as a home base.

According to the U.S. State Department, there are an estimated 27 million men, women and children enslaved in the world, and North Carolina consistently ranks in the top 10 U.S. states for human trafficking. Yet, efforts to counter this issue remain vastly undermanned.

“Because of the confidential nature of each client’s situation, our case managers will always be unsung heroes, rescuing people from the depths of despair and never allowing others to know about it,” said Area Commander Major Pete Costas. “We may post statistics, but volumes of epic tales will never be told.”

An increasing number of clients in locations across the state limited the resources and capacity of Project FIGHT’s staff, according to Jessica Porta, Project FIGHT training and education/case manager. “This coupled with wanting to meet the needs of our clients warranted a response to expand our statewide efforts,” she said.

Since its inception in 2011, Project FIGHT has managed over 140 human trafficking cases in North Carolina, raising awareness about the issue in the community. It also leads the Rapid Response Team of the Triangle, which coordinates efforts among service providers including law enforcement, legal aid, and medical and mental health providers.

The program works with these agencies to connect clients with basic needs, mental health assessments, education, employment, housing and other resources.

“No one person or agency can do this [work] themselves,” said Project FIGHT Coordinator, Dale Alton. “There are a lot of layers of collaboration. That’s the only way any of this gets done.”

The OVC grant funding will allow the Army to hire two more case managers to serve in the new locations. Together they will continue Project FIGHT’s comprehensive case management approach.

In addition to expanding statewide comprehensive case management, the OVC grant proposal also addresses another of Project FIGHT’s goals: developing a statewide supportive housing program. Unfortunately, there are few housing options that are both trauma friendly and accepting of all victims and survivors of human trafficking regardless of type of trafficking, age, gender, nationality, or sexual orientation. The apartment-style housing is anticipated to be short- to medium-term housing for clients transitioning from a shelter, group home or homeless situation into an independent living situation.


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