Partnerships throughout McDowell County and surrounding areas are teaming up to combat sex trafficking in western North Carolina through Project WEST NC (Working to End Sex Trafficking in North Carolina).
Project WEST NC’s mission is to bring awareness to the hidden issue of human trafficking in western North Carolina and confront its underlying causes. The Project aims to achieve these goals through providing case-management, 24-hour crisis services, counseling and referral services to survivors of human trafficking, as well as educational trainings for local service providers and community members. The Project is also organizing an Anti-Human Trafficking Taskforce that is being led by local agencies and the broader community in Buncombe, Henderson, McDowell, Madison, Transylvania and Yancey counties. In addition, Project WEST NC will serve as one of the pilot sites for Project NO REST, a state-wide effort to stop human trafficking through community collaborations.
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“We are so pleased to present our Project WEST NC staff and services to the community,” said Angelica Wind, executive director of Our VOICE. “Our community is in a great place to formulate solid, holistic responses to victims of human trafficking, such that they become survivors.”
In McDowell County, Project WEST NC has built strong coalition with several different agencies including McDowell's domestic and sexual violence agency New HOPE, McDowell Ministries, DSS, RHA, law enforcement and the DA’s office in order to provide services to survivors of trafficking. The project is also working with these agencies to create community-based initiatives to identify potential trafficking situations and prevent trafficking before it occurs.
“Not only am I grateful that we get to work with the Project WEST NC staff, who are dedicated individuals doing the grassroots, groundwork that this community desperately needs, but also that we have had the opportunity to cultivate and nourish positive working relationships within our community, and our neighboring communities, to provide these much needed services to our shared clientele,” said Casee Nelson, shelter manager and program director at New HOPE.
The public is invited to contact Our VOICE to find out more about Project WEST NC and to learn more about human trafficking and what your community can do to help. For more information about Our VOICE, visit www.ourvoicenc.org or call (828) 252-0562. .
BOX: North Carolina is among the top 10 states for reports of human trafficking cases in 2016. This is largely due to the number of major interstates that cross through the state, the large agricultural population, tourist industry, rural areas, and high rates of poverty and substance use disorders.
Historically, the needs of this population have been unmet in this area. A lack of public knowledge about human trafficking and limited resources and services for survivors ultimately results in an increased prevalence of human trafficking. This, therefore, underscores the urgency for implementation of Project WEST NC.