Editor's note: If you believe you or someone you know is being trafficked, you can find help at Call to Freedom by calling 605-521-7303.
Simplified: Call to Freedom started in 2016 as a group of volunteers on a mission to help people impacted by sex and labor trafficking. Today, the nonprofit has 27 staff teaching thousands of people across the state how to better recognize the signs of trafficking.
Why it matters
- Just over a year ago, the Sioux Falls City Council gave Call to Freedom $500,000 in federal pandemic relief funds as as three-year grant to further their youth outreach.
- To date, that money has helped provide dozens of trainings that have given parents, students and the staff who interact with them the tools they need to identify the signs of trafficking and when someone needs help.
- Call to Freedom also used a portion of the city funds to purchase some curriculum – called "Set Me Free" – designed to help educate kids about consent, social media safety, mental health and grooming.
"Constant prevention and education is key to be able to identify what is happening within our community," Executive Director Becky Simmons told City Council Tuesday afternoon.
Tell me more about Call to Freedom
The nonprofit serves both kids and adults who've been impacted by trafficking.
- Last year, for example, Call to Freedom helped 278 adult clients and 100 youth clients (counting "youth" as anyone age 0 to 24).
Call to Freedom operates using what's called a "continuum of care" model. It's a very survivor-led approach including mentorship, case management, help with housing and community education – among other services.
The city grant helped fund youth programming, including:
- 35 training presentations to teachers, school counselors, school resource officers, parents and guardians. Those impacted more than 1,100 people.
- 10 "Set Me Free" presentations to a total of nearly 300 youth.
Call to Freedom also established a partnership with the Harrisburg School District.
- This year, all Harrisburg High School students will see three training videos related to healthy relationships, consent, social media, mental health and grooming.
In addition to youth programming, the nonprofit also helps hundreds of adults through its continuum of care and through programs like these:
- Marissa's House, a 12-unit apartment complex that opened last April and has already seen eight people successfully graduate the program and reunified nine families.
- Jail and prison re-entry programs to help women who were arrested for crimes committed while they were being trafficked adjust to life after incarceration.
There tends to be a perception that trafficking doesn't happen here, Simmons said.
"The more we do this work, the more we are realizing that is definitely not the case," Simmons said, adding that of the 378 people served last year, only 17 were from out-of-state.
What happens next?
Call to Freedom is looking to expand its re-entry program by hiring another person to go into jails and prisons to help people. So far, the re-entry program only has the capacity to serve women.
On the youth programming side of things, the nonprofit also wants to see more schools follow Harrisburg's lead and incorporate its lessons into the curriculum.