January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month and Catholic Charities is asking for your help recognizing human trafficking in our local community.

Human trafficking is a crime involving the exploitation of someone for the purposes of compelled labor or a commercial sex act through the use of force, fraud, or coercion. Human trafficking affects individuals across the world, including here in the United States, and is commonly regarded as one of the most pressing human rights issues of our time. Human trafficking affects every community in the United States across age, gender, ethnicity, and socio-economic backgrounds.

Between 1.6 and 2.8 million youth run away in a year. While trying to survive on the streets, youth are exposed to countless dangers, with an increased likelihood of substance abuse, depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, and a vulnerability to being trafficked.

Locally, Catholic Charities, in partnership with the Schuyler County Youth Bureau, operates the Runaway and Homeless Youth Program and the Safe Harbour Program serving anyone 10-24 years old who has run away, is at risk of running away or has been a victim of human trafficking. The local 24-hour hotline can be reached by calling or texting 607-742-9629 any time. A new website with resources and help can be found at safeharbourhelp.org.

Identifying and Supporting Survivors of Commercial Sexual Exploitation and Children (CSEC) of Youth Trafficking Part 1 will be held Tuesday, January 29, 2019, from 9:00 am – 12:30 pm in the Schuyler County Human Services Building: Rm 120 (323 Owego St, Montour Falls, NY 14865). Trainers Marlene Reynolds, Steuben/Schuyler County DSS Staff Development, and Candice Ozolins, Runaway and Homeless Youth Counselor, will be on hand to assist individuals in identifying, engaging, and providing services to trafficked and at-risk youth. This training will enable youth-serving professionals to recognize youth in CSEC and trafficking situations as well as youth vulnerabilities using trauma-informed principles. Please email registrations to Marlene Reynolds.

Human Trafficking Awareness Workshops will be held at Congregation Kol Ami (1008 W Water St, Elmira, NY) on February 10 and March 10 at 2 PM. All are welcome to attend. Candice Ozolins will share the red flags to be aware of and the resources to help those impacted by human trafficking during the February program. The Workshops are co-sponsored by Catholic Charities of Chemung/Schuyler, the Zonta Club of Elmira and the Jewish Community Center and Federation.

Catholic Charities and the Schuyler County Youth Bureau are also seeking Volunteer Host Homes to take in runaway youth. Volunteers receive training and youth stay in the home 30 days or less. If you are interested in becoming a Host Home, please contact Candice at 607-535-2050, ext. 206.

For more information, please visit the Catholic Charities website at cs-cc.org or call 607-535-2050 and speak with Candice. If you believe you may have information about a potential trafficking situation, please contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.

More information on Safe Harbour in New York State