East Portland

Services to help victims of sex trafficking face city's budget ax

Services to help victims of sex trafficking face city's budget ax »Play Video
The emergency shelter run by the Janus Youth Programs could close if the proposed budget cuts are approved.

PORTLAND, Ore. – A victim of sex trafficking came to Portland when she couldn't find help anywhere else, but the services to keep her safe are facing funding cuts.

The proposed cuts are part of the $21 million shortfall the city is dealing with.

The system is called the Prostitution Coordination Team.

It takes three things to save a victim and prosecute a pimp. It takes police, treatment centers and prosecutors.

But two of the three parts are in danger of falling apart.

Portland police Officer Mike Gallagher knows how it works. He's seen the victims and made the arrests.

"Just the other night we encountered and helped rescue a 15-year-old female," he said. "It's a very seedy side of the world. It's very violent."

Gallagher's job will still be here despite proposed budget cuts, but his job is only part of the sex trafficking solution.

"We'll still be able to go out on the streets and make arrests, but we're not going to have resources available to help the women to get them out of this lifestyle that they have not chosen to be in," he said.

"With my experience getting out, there're not many resources for girls like us," said the woman who came to Portland when other cities couldn't help. She spent a year forced into prostitution before she escaped.

"I look over my shoulder all the time," she said. "When I lay down at night, little noises, I think they're going to find me."

Now she's working with the team of people in Portland who are trying to help.

"The ladies that I'm working with right now are really great," she said.

There are victims like her, at 33 years old, and teenage victims like the one who wrote a poem to her counselors writing: "You saved me."

The Janus Youth Programs provides an emergency shelter that could have to close if the cuts go through.

Dennis Morrow is the executive director. And he's angry.

"It's simply unacceptable to live in a community that will leave 13-year-old girls who are getting raped multiple times a day for pay on the streets, and that's what this cut does," he said.

The proposed cuts would also get rid of Kelley Cloyd, the deputy district attorney assigned specifically to prostitution cases.

"I think that the way that this team works and this whole entire program works, I think that there's only going to be an increase in the number of prosecutions we have with pimps," Cloyd said.

If that system goes away it worries the victim.

"I just want girls to know that there's help," she said.

According to the Sexual Assault Resource Center, local prosecutions for child-trafficking pimps have increased 350 percent in the last few years since this collaborative effort began.

The mayor's office said Friday the mayor will listen to all of the public testimony. There are two more public hearings left before decisions are made about a final budget.