CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - The Cincinnati Salvation Army is getting help from the state to put an end to human trafficking in the Queen City. Tuesday Attorney General Mike DeWine announced the $49,356 dollar grant.
The money is part of more than $17 million in grant funds being distributed by the Ohio Attorney General's Office to crime victim services agencies statewide.
The local Salvation Army's Anti-Human Trafficking program is one of just eight new grant recipients in Ohio.
In Cincinnati, the money will be used to continue a 24 hour human trafficking hotline, a case management program, and to start a drop in program and outreach to get victims the resources and tools needed to escape.
"I saw a girl walking up the street and she could barely walk," Cincinnati resident Carol Mohamed recalled. "And there was a man who was obviously her pimp behind her kind of pushing her up the street."
Trafficking might be invisible to most people, but on Mohamed's street it is as clear as the banner her neighbor put up on the corner announcing 'Prostitution is Human Trafficking' and 'Hey Johns, we've got your number'.
"I was shocked that they were so bold," Mohamed told FOX19. "They were marching in the street and saying 'Hey, we're watching out for you, we're going to report you'."
"Nobody wants to be living in a community where there's other people being enslaved," Erin Meyer stated.
Meyer has been coordinating the Salvation Army's anti-human trafficking program since it began in May of 2012.
"Human trafficking is an issue we have across the United States in every city, every town. It just looks a little different depending on where you're at," she explained.
In Cincinnati, it often takes the form of sex trafficking.
"It's easier to see that on the streets sometimes," Meyer said. "So when we're talking about what you might notice: there are known tracks here in Cincinnati, known streets where street prostitution occurs."
The $50,000 dollars from the attorney general will help create an outreach program to connect with victims one street, one gift bag at a time. More than the items, however, the bags filled with hygiene items, outreach pamphlets, and food are about delivering hope that there is help.
"It really is a community effort to help break down that barrier that the trafficker has built up: that there's nobody out here who's going to help you, there's nobody out here you can trust," she explained.
The Salvation Army says they plan to start their drop in program for sex trafficking victims later in the fall or early winter.
To reach their 24 hour human trafficking hotline call 513.800.1863
A full list of all VOCA and SVAA recipients is available on the Ohio Attorney General's website.