Community group puts spotlight on regions sex trafficking problem

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November 5, 2010
By: Sarah McKenzie
Sarah McKenzie
A group of community organizers have been working on a public awareness and fundraising campaign to develop a transitional home for victims of sex trafficking in South Minneapolis.

The project organizers behind the proposed home, known as the Source Annex, are affiliated with Source/Fallout Urban Art Center — an organization that serves homeless and at-risk youth in the Whittier neighborhood.

If financing is secured, the Source Annex will feature one apartment for a teen that has been victimized by sex trafficking and two apartments for volunteers who are willing to help serve as role models for the youth, said Peter Wohler, the executive director at Source. He stressed that the transitional home would not be a licensed facility receiving taxpayer funding.

Backers of the project have been working to secure $42,000 by Nov. 16 for a down payment on a foreclosed property in Whittier to serve as the home for Source Annex. Additionally, they need another $168,000 to pay for building renovations.

As of late October, they had raised about half of what they need for the project.

Source is hosting a special benefit concert Nov. 12 at the Fallout Arts Initiative Co-op Studio to help raise more money for the Source Annex. Tickets are $12 for the show featuring Boston-based folk artist Jake Armerding and local folk-rock band The Brighton.

The concert is part of a 48-day awareness campaign led by Source to spotlight the problem of sex trafficking and teen prostitution in the Twin Cities. They have worked to spread the word through Facebook and Twitter, community events and on the project’s website at sourceannex.org.

Wohler said that too many people are ignorant about the sex trafficking problem in the Twin Cities.

“Locally there is not very much awareness,” he said. “We are kind of coming out of the dark ages about how we view prostitution.”

People tend to see people involved in prostitution as predators, not victims, he added.

Source has sought advice from St. Paul-based Breaking Free, an organization that serves women and girls who have been involved in prostitution and sex trafficking, for the project.

According to a collection of local and national statistics on prostitution and sex trafficking, the scope of the problem is staggering.

For one, the average age of entry into prostitution is 13, according to a University of Pennsylvania report.

There are roughly 20,000 homeless youth in Minnesota every year, according to a Wilder Foundation 2008 report. Another disturbing statistic indicates that youth are approached for sex within 48 hours of becoming homeless, according to a report from the state’s Attorney General’s Office.  

Wohler said he believes the Source Annex project would be one-of-a-kind in the city since it has role models living in two of the apartments to help the teen carve out a new life path.

“My prayer and my vision is in our lifetime we are going to see this replicated 100 times over,” he said.


Benefit concert

There will be a benefit concert for the Source Annex project on Nov. 12 at the Fallout Arts Initiative Co-op Studio, 2601 2nd Ave. S. The show starts at 7 p.m. and will feature Jake Armerding and The Brighton. Tickets are $12 and on sale at jakearmerding.com.