OMAHA, Neb. — A new program is trying to fight sex trafficking and labor trafficking by organizing existing services across Nebraska.
The program, called SAFE-T, or Salvation Army Fight to End Human Trafficking, began Thursday. It offers improved case management services and a 24-hour hotline for trafficking victims.
The program is the result of a $1.5 million federal grant to the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office and the Salvation Army to help victims of trafficking.
“Most people don’t think of human trafficking when they think of the Salvation Army,” said Linda Burkle, divisional director of the Salvation Army’s social services. The organization has, however, been helping victims of trafficking since its inception in 1865, she said.
The group has hired three new employees to work with the program and plans to hire more.
The grant will be distributed over three years, and the Salvation Army has agreed to raise a 30 percent match of the federal funding.
Program leaders hope to educate the public about the differences between sex trafficking and prostitution. Trafficking, they say, is not a choice.
Stephen Patrick O’Meara, the human trafficking coordinator with the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office, said he hopes the network will help bring the issue to light.
“This is a hidden issue,” he said.